Monday, April 16, 2007

I love it when he tells me the answer

Once in a while, we get a parable where the meaning is explained to us.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Luke 18:1
You've probably heard it before; a widow, who has no legal standing, no money, no power, importunes a judge -- a judge we'd probably call amoral. Almost amoral, anyway. He gives her what's right -- not because he cares, but because she's bugging him so much.

I guess Luke tells us the point of the parable because the judge is so bad, and because the point is easy to miss amidst the details.

So why did they need this parable? Didn't they already know that they should always pray? Hadn't they seen Jesus do that, and didn't they know that they should emulate him in this? Of course they did -- and so do we! But we don't, and neither did they. And that's why we need the parable.

But hold on a second. Why don't we -- and why didn't they -- pray always? Why do we -- and why did they -- feel tempted to give up? This is why I think the parable is brilliant. Here's the last part of the parable:
6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I 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 18:6-8
Now why does he say all that? Fortunately, Luke tells us: in this parable, all the wood is behind one arrow: to show them that they should always pray and not give up. So why might they feel tempted to give up? Because they're not sure God is just?

But look -- even the unjust judge eventually does what is right, and the widow gets justice. So if they think God is unjust, they'd better not give up!

Do they think he's not listening, that they're too small and powerless? Look at the widow! Remember, "widow" is shorthand for "penniless and powerless."

Of course, you and I know all these things too. So why do we need to be reminded that we should always pray and not give up? I think that's the point of Jesus's last question: Will there be faith on the earth, will he find us believing him (praying), when he returns?

This was a tough one for those disciples in their culture -- it may be tougher for us in ours, filled as it is with instant gratification, "instant-on" TVs, cell phones, high-speed wireless internet, and so on. What do we need? What did they?

I'll tell you my reaction to this parable: "Lord, help me not to give up." Or, as someone else said, so long ago, "I do believe; help me in my unbelief!" Or, more pithily, the more we pray, the more we'll pray. Which I'm going to guess has worked for thousands of years.

May it work in my life, too. And in yours.

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