Lessons from the Persistent Widow

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“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

– Matthew [9:10]-11


In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a persistent widow. He starts the story by telling those around him, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’” (Luke 18:2–3)

Widows in the first century had few rights or resources. Losing your husband and not having family to support you, was a sentence of poverty and helplessness. There was no Social Security or other societal safety net. Widows were essentially helpless. To survive, they had to be persistent and tough. Jesus picks the widow, one of the lowest of society, to demonstrate that a persistent faith will prevail against even the toughest of circumstances.

The widow in the story Jesus tells us about in Luke has been wronged by an unnamed opponent. In her town, the judge was corrupt and only cared about his position of power. He had little interest in God or his neighbors and this was the only place of recourse for the widow; a corrupt judge who showed little interest in her or in doing right. Day after day, she showed up in his court to ask for justice. Day after day, this justice was denied. Finally, after many days of this, the judge said to himself, “I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” (Luke 18:5)

Jesus talks about this woman in the Parable of the Persistent Widow. He uses the figure of a widow to highlight the value of being persistent, even when we feel powerless. The judge in the story is the symbol of a society that moved along its daily course, considering nothing but its daily route. Lost are people like the widows because they were not part of that route.

Jesus’ point in telling this story is that our persistent faith in achieving an honorable outcome, even in the face of the evil, will produce results. He asks at the end of the story, “And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. (Luke 18:7–8)


Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Jade