Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Persistent Widow

Chapter breaks bother me.  In fictional literature, chapter breaks change a scene.  They may even move the story up a decade.  But in scripture, chapter breaks don't always change the story.  Probably the best example of a chapter break that does major harm to the meaning of the writing is found in I Thessalonians 4 and 5.  That chapter break has led many down a false path of understanding, but alas, that is not a discussion for today.

Let's talk about the persistent widow.  Have you heard of her? Her story is found at the beginning of Luke 18 (hint, hint - chapter break).  Verse one says, "Now He was telling a parable to show that at all times they oughts to pray and not to lose heart."

If I was reading this as a new idea or a new storyline, I would think, "Oh, this is just Jesus' advice for when life gets hard."

The story goes on to describe a judge who did not fear God nor did he respect the people he served.  A certain widow repeatedly contacted him for legal protection from her opponent.  Now we don't know what the issue was - we only know she did not have a husband to battle this opponent, therefore the widow was calling upon the judge to defend her.  The judge ignored her pleas but over time she wore him down.  Finally he said, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out."

She wore him down and got what she so desperately needed - protection.

Jesus then goes on to say, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?"

Okay, point taken.  If we really want God's ear, we have to pray day and night.

But you have to admit, the "crying day and night" is rather interesting.  What would make the elect cry day and night?  They would really, really have to be distressed, don't you think?

Now, we could just stop there and make the simple application that we have to really be bothersome when we pray and God will eventually give in.  Is that what He wants us to know?

Well, just to check ourselves, let's read another verse:  "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

Whoa.  That verse is kind of a game changer, don't you think? Why did Jesus throw in something about His return?  What does that have to do with anything?

Context, context, context.  This actually is the end of an end times discourse by Jesus.  The problem is that it started in chapter 17 and when we see the number 18, we assume that it's a new thought.  In this case, 18:1-8 should have been attached to chapter 17.

In chapter 17, Jesus describes His return in a few ways:

  • like lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to another (v. 24)
  • like the days of Noah, where people were not even paying attention until it was too late (v. 26,27)
  • like in the days of Lot, where once again there was no concern but daily life will be suddenly interrupted by his return (v. 28-30)
Immediately after these descriptions Jesus instructs the disciples to not lose heart and pray for the Father will bring about justice for them quickly - this implies that the "elect" (Jesus' words, not mine) will be suffering unjustly in those last days. But then He adds that final question:  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?

Stay with me:  the suffering is ended by the Son of Man coming.  But Jesus is concerned that any will remain faithful during the suffering.

Wow.  This is serious stuff.  Jesus is a teacher at heart and He is warning His children of a few things - first of all, before He returns life is going to be really hard for His children.  It's going to be so hard that either they will be killed and that's why there may not be faith left on the earth, or they are going to walk away from the faith because it's too hard.  That's quite the warning.

In Matthew 24:9-13, Jesus said, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated y all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."

The one who endures to the end will be the one who has the faith that Jesus is looking for when He returns.

Again, quite a warning.  

My advice to you?  Be sure to know the context of a story so you don't miss the real meaning.


  1. Blessed again by your gift of wisdom Kristen.

  2. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Corinthians 1:8
    Doesn't this also comfirm that He will give all the true believers the strength to get them through the rough end times. And stand firm in their faith in Jesus no matter what.

  3. Absolutely, Nancy. Saving faith is enduring faith, and a gift from God. Romans 8:35-39 is another great promise.

  4. Nancy, that sounds like the kind of faith that will get your head cut off. What about the kind of faith (like what Noah had) that believes the warnings already given and prepares ahead of time a plan to escape what's coming? Both kinds of faith endure to the end - one to the end of your life, one to the end of the age.