The Parable of the Persistent Widow
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18.1-8 NIV
I continue in my commentary on Luke, and Luke 18.1-8 addresses the frequent call for harmony among HK Christian leadership. There have been numerous published prayers calling for God to help end the chaos that is Occupy HK. Luke 18.1-8 gives the perfect solution.
In the first parable, the parable of the unjust judge, Jesus talked about praying always and not giving up. The reason why the disciples shouldn’t give up is simple: God is infinitely better than the judge. The parable itself is telling in understanding the realistic view Jesus took of the lack of social justice in his day. Jesus first described the judge as someone who neither feared God nor cared about humans in Luke 18.2. Then, Jesus called him outright “unjust” in Luke 18.6, a word describing an evil person.
How did the judge express his own evil though? The judge himself showed his own evil by saying that the poor widow had worn him out in Luke 18.5. The word “wearing out” actually means something like “beating up”. As I wrote this, Manny Pacquiao had defended his boxing title WBO welterweight championship belt in Macau by knocking down his opponent 6 times. Shockingly, his opponent’s trainer had such a crazy imagination that he told his opponent that he was doing quite well and that he was on course to beating Manny. That’s taking reality and turning it into fantasy. It is nothing better than some unjust HK police shouting, “Do not charge” while taking batons to the heads of the retreating protesters. Such an upside down imagination does no one any good. In the same way, the poor widow was the one beaten up by life, but this judge who oppressed imagined himself to be beaten up. He imagined himself to be the victim rather than oppressor. Yet, Jesus didn’t condemn her for her not giving up. In fact, Jesus saw her action as exemplary.
There’re ethical implications to this parable in light of the HK situation. When Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor, many HK churches and other church circles preach the very opposite as the message of the Advent. Many churches and Christian leaders often denounced the protesters for beating up the HK system and making it worse. Many such protesters are the ones directly affected by the unjust system. Many young people will not get good employment or find affordable housing even after working hard in their university course work. They aren’t the ones doing the beating up. Their cries have reached the international community. There’s no guarantee of success, but they fight on. They would not give up. If Jesus were to give a commentary on society, he could well use the HK protest as an example. What the evil judge did above was switching himself from the oppressor to a victim. It is interesting when the accusatory prayer is directed at the protesters, the person doing the prayer is just like the evil judge. Victim switching before God is an extreme evil that needs to be eradicated from the church because it goes directly against the message of both the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. It turns the Word incarnate upside down and turns the cross into an amusement ride in the theme park.
We notice that Jesus not only talked about the unjust judge, but he also talked about God who loves His children. The way Jesus taught prayer is linked with the final hope of the day of the Son of Man in Luke 18.8. Prayer was the means by which Jesus’ followers expressed their faith of the hope. Yet, we can’t fail to see that Jesus didn’t fail to denounce injustice in his parable while encouraging his followers to pray. In other words, it is highly unbiblical to ignore injustice while relying on some irrelevant prayer that is only of rapturous heavenly good with no earthly relevance. A proclamation against injustice is equally important as a prayer for future hope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Discussion about unity is a total waste of time when we don’t discuss the idea of justice. Call for prayer is equally a waste of time when the discussion of justice does not take place. It is high time that people who advocate prayer as the ONLY solution to stop making our faith such a mockery to both society and thoughtful Christians. It is also hight time that Christians stop switching victims in prayer. Those of us who bother to think about the real meaning of prayer are tired of such evil prayers.
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?