I have to confess that this is one of my favorite parables of Jesus; in fact, I can’t think of one off-hand that I love more. As I mentioned last year, the Bible doesn’t contain a lot of humor. If it did, it wouldn’t be as effective as a cross-cultural message for the entire world, since humor doesn’t usually translate well across borders. Nevertheless, there's some humor scattered here and there in the Scriptures.
I thoroughly believe that this story is one of those instances. Since we’re a visual society, imagine this story acted out. First, we have a judge who doesn’t fear God or care about men. Judges in particular were required to fear (i.e. have a healthy respect for) God in order to avoid criminal or unethical behavior, since an authority figure needs a reminder that there’s Someone watching over him who'll call him to account. Apparently this judge wasn’t God-fearing and placed no priority on justice, which explains why Jesus calls him “unjust” in vs. 6.
Enter the widow, or “crazy lady” as the judge likely called her (under his breath). Here’s where I see some humor. The judge wakes up in the morning, sits up in bed, yawns, and stretches. There’s a pounding on his door, and he curses to himself as he gets up and goes to it. He peeks out the window and says “It’s that crazy lady again! If I stay quiet, maybe she’ll give up and go away!” Just as he thinks this, he hears her yelling “I know you’re in there, judge! I’m going to keep pounding on this door and putting on a show for your neighbors until you come to the door!” He reluctantly opens it muttering “Listen lady, I told you before, I’ll get to your case when I get to it!” “Not good enough! I need justice now!” “It’ll have to be. Good day!” She becomes like a cartoon character, popping up at the worst moments. He’s trying to eat his breakfast, and she pops her head in the window and yells “When are you going to take my case?!” He gets into bed at night, and she’s under the bed and pops out again: “When are you going to take my case?!” He leaves the office for a nap under a tree, trying to get some rest and a break from the crazy lady. Guess who hunts him down and finds him out there?
It doesn’t take much of this before he has all he can take. She’s harassing him again about taking her case and he blurts out “OK, you win! Come in Monday morning and I’ll get the paperwork started!” She’s in the middle of her latest rant when she stops herself and says “What?” “I said you win, lady. I’ll look at your case. Come in Monday morning and I’ll help you out. That’s on the condition you stay out of my house until then.”
Now, what is Jesus’ point here? Is he comparing God to this judge? Of course not! It’s a contrast, or actually an argument from the lesser to the greater. He does the same thing when he tells us “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” The best parents in the world, as much as they love their children, are not perfect and still are selfish at times. How much more will our Father give us what we need?
That judge couldn’t care less about that widow. But she wore him down, and he decided to take her case before she sent him to the loony bin. Our Father isn’t like that at all. He loves us with an everlasting love, and a sparrow doesn’t fall out of a tree without him knowing about it. He’s committed himself to taking care of our needs. He sent his Son to bleed and die for us. He doesn’t have to badgered into taking care of his children. He delights in it.
And that extends to prayer. Remember, that’s the point of the story. He wants us to “pray and not give up.” So what about when the times when I'm “[crying] out to him day and night,” and nothing is happening? Why isn’t he intervening in my situation? Why is everything getting worse? Well, there are a lot of possible reasons why he hasn’t openly stepped in yet, and I'd never presume to know what’s going on with you in your own situation. But I do know this: Whatever reason he has for not stepping in yet, it’s not because he doesn’t know or doesn’t care. He does. He always has. And in the right time and in the right way, he will step in and set things right. Just keep praying, and don't give up. Please.
Lord Jesus, I know your truth, but sometimes it’s really hard to keep going when you don’t show yourself. I know you’re here, and you love me. Don’t hide yourself any longer, please.