The Unjust Judge and The Persistent Woman
Matt 17: 20
1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
In this parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), a poor, powerless person (the widow) persists in nagging a corrupt, powerful person (the judge) to do justice for her. The parable assumes John the Baptist’s teaching that holding a position of power and leadership obligates you to work justly, especially on behalf of the poor and weak. But Jesus focuses the parable on a different point, that we are “to pray always and to not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). He identifies the hearers — us — with the woman, and the prayed-to person — God — with the corrupt judge, a strange combination. Assuming that Jesus doesn’t mean that God is corrupt, the point must be that if persistence pays off with a corrupt human of limited power, how much more will it pay off with a just God of infinite power.
The purpose of the parable is to encourage Christians to persevere in their faith against all odds. But it also has two applications for those who work in positions of leadership. First, the juxtaposition of a corrupt judge with a just God implies that God’s will is at work even in a corrupt world. The judge’s job is to do justice, and by God, he will do justice by the time the widow is finished with him. Elsewhere, the Bible teaches that the civil authorities serve by God’s authorization, whether they acknowledge it or not (John 19:11; Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13). So there is hope that even in the midst of systemic injustice, justice may be done. A Christian leader’s job is to work toward that hope at all times. We cannot right every wrong in the world in our lifetimes. But we must never give up hope, and never stop working for the greater goodin the midst of the imperfect systems where our work occurs. Legislators, for example, seldom have a choice of voting for a good bill versus a bad bill. Usually the best they can do is to vote for bills that do more good than bad. But they must continually look for opportunities to bring bills to a vote that do even less harm and even more good.
The second point is that only God can bring about justice in a corrupt world. That is why we must pray and not give up in our work. God can bring miraculous justice in a corrupt world, just as God can bring miraculous healing in a sick world. Suddenly, the Berlin wall opens, the apartheid regime crumbles, peace breaks out in the Middle East, a cure for Ebola and AIDS is found, capitalists begin to value people over profits, men marry women and women want to marry men, husbands love only their wives, wives obey their husbands, and children honor their parents. In the parable of the persistent widow, God does not intervene. The widow’s persistence alone leads the judge to act justly. But Jesus indicates that God is the unseen actor. “Will not God grant justice for his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7).
Before the Flood the Lord made the following statement concerning the people on the earth. Then the LORD said, My spirit shall not abide in humanity forever, for they are flesh… (Genesis 6:3).
God speaks to humankind as a whole. What did the Lord mean that His Spirit will not strive with humanity forever?
The spirit referred to here is sometimes understood to mean the Holy Spirit. God is saying that the Holy Spirit will not always strive with humanity. Therefore the passage is taken to mean that the Lord’s patience was worn out with the people on the earth. This is much the same idea that we find in the prophetical books where the Lord expressed His impatience with the disobedient nation Israel.
The Lord then goes on to say that humanity also is flesh. This seems to refer to our sinful nature—our actions have become similar to that of animals.
Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish honor (Psalm 49:12).
Right up to the present day men’s hearts are full of wickedness and evil, according to the words of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many people believe that there is a certain amount of good as well as evil within the heart of a man. However, God declares to us in the Bible that there is no goodness in the heart of man. God says “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it”, (Jeremiah 17:9). This speaks to us of the utter depravity of man’s heart.
The Lord Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murderer, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; All these things come from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-28). This speaks of the heart as the source of all evil in a man’s life.
Before the flood of Noah, the Bible says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5).
God spoke about the condition of men’s hearts the world over. He destroyed the whole world in those days because of their wickedness and, out of the flood, only Noah and his family were saved, by God. After the flood God looked upon men again and said, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21). Men’s hearts from Adam to the flood, were full of evil and wickedness.
God’s Spirit is slowly being taken out of this world. Satan is being given more leeway to instigate evil. Christians are being tested. Some will be tried in the fire and come forth as pure gold, but some will not.
When we have trials in our lives, these are little tests. God will not just give us one big test, like a ‘final exam”. No, God sends little tests, like “pop quizzes” to get us ready for the big test.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete.
Matthew 17:20- Jesus said “…. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Jesus was not referring to the size of the grain of mustard seed; he was referring to the persistent quality of the mustard seed. It never gives up, in spite of the difficulties that it faces. Some of the valleys around Jerusalem are barren and dry. They have nothing but rocks and yellow mustard plants, yet the shepherds graze their sheep there.
Grass will not grow there because the sheep and the goats eat the grass down to the root and the grass dies. But, the mustard seed does not die when the sheep and the goats eat the tender shuts that jut above the ground. When the goats eat the mustard plant down to the root, the mustard plant grows two more; and when the sheep eat two shuts, the mustard grown four more. The mustard seed increase exponentially. Mustard seeds do not die; they multiply.
That is the quality of the mustard seed. If our Faith is as strong as the quality of the Mustard Seed we will not only endure and survive in these Last Days, but we will thrive and be ready when our Lord returns.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Elder Henry J. Fordham II delivered God’s Message this Sabbath.
A lawyer asked, “can a poisonous tree produce good healthy fruit”? No, but God can bring something good out of bad environment. God’s will is at work even in a corrupt world. So there is hope that even in the midst of systemic injustice, justice will be done.