A Just Judge.
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” – Luke 18:6-7 NLT
Jesus taught a great deal by using comparisons. The parable of the prodigal son was really a comparison between two sons. The parable of the rich man and the poor man in chapter 16 was a comparison. And here Jesus uses the same teaching technique to drive home a message regarding God. He tells a story about a judge “who neither feared God nor cared about people” (Luke 18:2 NLT). This man was in a position of power and authority. His job was to render justice. He was to settle disputes and help determine the proper and just decision in all cases, equitably and without prejudice. There was a widow who had a dispute with her enemy. She repeatedly brought her problem before the judge, asking for him to give her justice. She was presenting the facts of her case and desiring this judge to render a just judgment. Finally, the judge decided to see that she received justice. NOT because he was just and fair, but “because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:5 NLT). While Luke prefaces this story with the qualifier, “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1 NLT), the lesson is less about persistence than it is about expectations. In other words, we should not walk away from this story thinking that we can have whatever we want as long as we badger God enough for it. We can’t get God to give us whatever we want just by persistently asking for it. This woman’s need was justice. As a widow and a woman, she had little to no power or authority in that culture. She was helpless and hopeless. Her only source of justice was the judge. So she went to him regularly and persistently because he was her only hope.
Jesus makes the lesson of this story very clear. He says, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge.” In other words, Jesus doesn’t make the woman the point of the lesson, but the judge. Jesus says, “Even he rendered a just decision in the end.” This judge, who had no respect for God and cared little for people, rendered a just verdict in the end. Why? Because the widow persistently brought her need for justice to him. She was literally driving him crazy with her repeated requests. So, Jesus says, don’t you think God will see that justice is done for His own people who cry out to Him day and night? The comparison Jesus seems to be making is between the judge and God – between an earthly, flawed judge and a heavenly, compassionate, completely righteous and just Judge. Interestingly, Jesus says, God will grant justice quickly. The judge in the story ignored the widow’s request for a time, and put her off. But God, the just judge, will not do that. He will respond quickly and justly. God won’t put them off. He won’t delay out of indifference. He will hear and He will act. So we are to come to Him – in faith. We are to believe that He hears us and that He will respond to us. His answer may not come in the form we expect or at the exact time we want it to come. But He will render judgment, quickly and justly. So when we need a just decision to be made, we are to pray faithfully, expectantly and persistently – until God answers.
Jesus then tells another story that seems to be addressed to the Pharisees again – to those “who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else” (Luke 18:9 NLT). Again, Jesus uses comparison, by contrasting a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both men are portrayed praying in the Temple. But the Pharisee’s prayer is self-focused and self-righteous. He views himself as better than anyone else. “I thank you God that I am not a sinner like everyone else” (Luke 18:11 NLT). He then proceeds to tell God all about his character. Notice that he gives a list of all the things he doesn’t do and all the things he does do. His is a behavior-based righteousness. But the tax collector takes a different approach. He is humble, penitent, and only refers to himself as a sinner in need of mercy. Jesus makes a powerful point from this story. He says, “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14 NLT). I believe Jesus told these two stories at the same time for a reason. Each involve prayer or petition. They include someone with a request or need and someone being addressed with that need. But notice that the Pharisee has no request. He needs nothing from God, except His admiration and respect. Ultimately, he wants God’s blessing, but only because he believes he deserves it. The tax collector needs mercy. He recognizes his sinful state and only comes to God for one thing: His mercy and forgiveness. He knows he is undeserving. So he humbly approaches God and asks Him to extend mercy. The real issue in both stories seems to involve a recognition of need. The widow needed justice. She recognized her helplessness and went to the one person who could help. The tax collector needed mercy, so he went to the only One who could give it. And Jesus said this man went home justified before God. In other words, God viewed him as righteous, because he had recognized his own sinfulness and need, and turned to God for help.
Why do you turn to God? What is it you want from Him? Are you asking Him to bless your decisions and rubber stamp your will? Or do you come to Him in need, recognizing your own helplessness and hopelessness? Do you believe God owes you something because of all you do for Him? Or do you realize that all your righteous deeds are as filthy rags in His sight and humbly rely on His mercy in spite of your undeservedness? God renders justice. He judges fairly and faithfully. He is impartial and always decides rightly and righteously. Trust Him. Turn to Him. Pray to Him. He will answer, and He will answer justly.
Father, too often my prayers are all about me. I come with all my needs, requests, and demands. I have a list of what I want and need, and I simply expect you to give me the answers I want. But Lord, You fulfill Your own will, not mine. You render just judgments, not answer unjust prayers. Show me how to bring my needs to You and then allow You to do the right and just thing, regardless of what I think is best. I can trust You to judge fairly and equitably – every time. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men