The Parable Of The Persistent Widow


‘Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

What is a parable?

The word ‘parable’ comes from the Greek word ‘parabole’, which literally means a placing beside, a comparison, equivalent to or to compare. Some say that a parable is ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning’ but really a parable is more than that. The dictionary defines a parable as ‘a short figurative story, designed to convey some truth or moral lesson.’

Or ‘a brief story using events or facts of everyday life to illustrate a moral or spiritual truth.’

Parables come in many different styles and forms

Let me give you a couple of examples. In Luke 4 after Jesus had been tempted by the devil, He went on the Sabbath Day to the synagogue in Nazareth. And when the leaders heard Him read the prophet Isaiah from a scroll they asked in verse 22 ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’

And Jesus replied in verse 23, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’

So here, we have an example of a parable in the form of a ‘proverb’. Again, in Luke 5 we find Jesus sharing a parable in the form of a ‘metaphor’ to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, Luke 5:36-39.

And there are many other forms of parables that Jesus used too but the point is that Jesus used parables as a form of teaching. It wasn’t the only form of teaching He used but it was certainly a form He liked to use a lot and throughout the Gospels, there are over 30 parables of Jesus recorded in some style or another. Most of them are well known to many people but all of them are classics, Jesus was the Master teacher when it came to parables.

Here in Luke 18:1-5, we find Jesus teaching in parable form that He wants us to speak to the Father in prayer, especially in times of need. The Father longs to hear from us, He longs for us to talk to Him, sadly when times get tough a lot of Christians simply switch off, they go everywhere else to find someone to talk to, instead of speaking to the Father who longs to help His children. Luke 11:5-10 / Ephesians 6:18 / 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

It’s so easy to give up when difficult times come our way, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God doesn’t hear our prayers or God won’t answer our prayers or as in the case of this parable, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God just doesn’t care about the injustices in our lives, but Jesus reminds us not to give up, why?

The Parable

‘He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ ‘For some time, he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ Luke 18:2-5

The Judge

It’s quite clear that Jesus is teaching us that anyone who doesn’t fear God in the first place, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, anyone who doesn’t respect His ways and commandments will usually have no respect for anyone else. There’s no doubt that the kind of judge Jesus is describing here is the kind of judge who would only listen to those who were willing to ‘pay’ him for his time. In other words, he would only listen and act on behalf of someone else, if it was for his own benefit and if he was going to gain something out of it.

The Widow

It’s also clear that someone at some point in time, had done something wrong against this widow and so, she was perfectly within her right to plead for justice. I don’t believe her plea for justice was in terms of spiteful revenge, but simply in terms of her enemy wronging her in some way and she simply wanted justice.

God has always had a special place in His heart for widows and He always wanted them protected and cared for, Deuteronomy 10:18 / Psalm 68:5 / Isaiah 1:17 / James 1:27.

The Judge

The judge doesn’t seem to care about his duties as a judge, he doesn’t seem to care about the widow and her plea, he seems to be more interested in getting rid of this ‘nagging’ widow.

Notice that the judge admitted within himself at least, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t care what people thought about him, this is what was really going on inside of him and this reveals just how evil he was, he was full of himself, he was arrogant and cared for no-one else except himself.

We’re not told how long she kept pleading with the judge, but the good news is that the widow didn’t give up, her persistence paid off as the judge finally listened and acted in dealing with the one who unjustly treated her.

But please note, he did this, not because he genuinely cared about the widow, he did this because he simply wanted to get rid of the widow, he was tired of her.

The NIV tells us that he gave in to her pleas, ‘so that she won’t eventually come and attack me’, which can be misleading. We’re not to think that somehow this widow was eventually going to get the judge and beat him up if he doesn’t help her.

The original text literally says, ‘lest she gives me a black eye’, which unlike today’s understanding of someone giving you a ‘black eye’ in terms of being physically assaulted, the judge is thinking in terms of his reputation as a judge, in his opinion he is a ‘good’ judge, with a good reputation which he wants to maintain. Matthew 6:1.

Like so many today, he possibly believed that doing this righteous deed for this widow would be accepted as a righteous act, but the truth is, Jesus is telling us that if our motives are wrong, God won’t accept them as righteous acts. Proverbs 16:2 / 1 Corinthians 4:5.

‘And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.’ Luke 18:6-7

The Point

Jesus quickly gets to the point of the parable which is simply this, if a judge who doesn’t fear God and doesn’t care about others, if this judge who cares about no one except himself will act upon the requests of this persistent widow, how much more will God hear and act upon the pleas of His children who are seeking justice because of the persecution their facing. Hebrews 10:37 / 2 Peter 3:8-9 / Revelation 6:10.

Hence why the answer to the first question is ‘yes’, God will bring justice to those who are pleading for justice because they are being persecuted, and the answer to the second question is ‘no’, He will not keep putting them off because He cares for and loves His children so much, He won’t ignore their pleas but will act justly against the persecutors.

Faith On Earth

‘However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ Luke 18:8

The whole crutch of the parable is found in Jesus’ third and final question. Not only are Christians encouraged to pray when they’re facing trials, but they’re also encouraged to keep the faith whilst going through those trials, James 1:2-8.

We get the idea that this persecution will be so intense that many will fall away because of it.

What kind of faith is this?

To keep the answer to this question in its proper context, it must be the kind of faith which endures, the kind of faith that knows that God hears our cries during times of persecution and the kind of faith that acknowledges that God will help us in our time of need and will act justly. In other words, don’t stop praying for justice, and don’t give up when we’re being persecuted.

It’s clear that Jesus has in mind that the persecution of His children will be an ongoing persecution until He returns to judge the world, we read about this persecution happening within the early church, Acts 7 / Revelation, and throughout history, even to our present day, hence why we need to keep praying about it and trusting that God will deal with it.

Think about it!

Imagine going through trial after trial and being persecuted time and time again because you’re a Christian, it’s so easy to stop praying and give up because we’ve convinced ourselves that God isn’t listening, or He doesn’t care. God wants us to have an enduring faith which never quits, which never stops believing that God will deal with our persecutors. 2 Peter 3:1-13 / Matthew 24:12-13.


Over the years I’ve heard many a sermon and sat in many a Bible study where we were taught that, just like the widow, we should keep ‘nagging’ God in prayer until He finally gives in and answers our prayers. That’s not the point of the parable, in fact, it’s the complete opposite, God is the complete opposite of this unjust judge because He really does care about His children.

The context isn’t about ‘general prayer’, it’s all about justice and being mistreated, we don’t have to keep ‘nagging’ God in prayer because we’re promised He hears our prayers and we’re promised that He will take action and unlike the unjust just, quickly at that.

In this context, Jesus is encouraging His followers to pray for deliverance in times of persecution because God promises to act and bring judgement upon anyone who persecutes His children. We must trust that God will deal with them at the appropriate time, Romans 12:19.

As Christians, we need to believe that in times of trouble, God is always longing to hear from us in order to answer our prayers and help us.

Anyone who says, ‘become a Christian and your life will be a bed of roses’ has lied because the Bible promises the exact opposite, 2 Timothy 3:12.

As Christians we will go through many trials and tribulations in this life and there may be times when we’re facing real persecution, but Jesus promised that if we endure the persecution we will be blessed, Matthew 5:10-11, but let’s not forget that Jesus’ question here still applies to us all today, will we have the enduring faith that lasts until He returns?