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Parables Bible Study 17: The Tenacious Widow

Title: Parables Bible Study 17: The Tenacious Widow

Subject: Persistent Prayer

Age: 13+ years

Location: Luke 18:1-8

Handout for note taking: Bible Study Worksheet

Begin the Bible Study with a prayer. Read the passage, and then allow time for quiet reflection. Share the following notes on the parable.

The Parable of the Tenacious Widow is unique to Luke's Gospel. There is, however, a related passage in Luke 11:5-10. This parable is located after the Lord's own discourse on the Second Coming (Luke 17:20-37), and prior to the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

This is an unusual parable, yet its obvious lesson from verse 1 is, "that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." St. Cyril of Alexandria warns us though that the ear of God is only gained by those who pray neither carelessly nor negligently but only with earnestness and constancy.
"But that God will incline His ear to those who offer their prayers, not carelessly nor negligently, but with earnestness and constancy, the present parable assures us. For if the constant coming of the oppressed widow prevailed upon the unjust judge, who feared not God, neither had any shame at men, so that even against his will he granted her redress, how shall He who loveth mercy, and hateth iniquity, and who ever giveth His helping hand to them that love Him, accept those who draw near Him day and night, and avenge them as being His elect?[1]"

The characteristics of the believer's prayer according to Luke 18 must be grounded in faith, offered continually, based in humility, and with complete dependence in God. The following verses emphasize prayers' importance:

  • John 16:24: "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray without ceasing."
  • James 1:6: "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind."

The parable closes with a question concerning faith in verse 8. Our characters include the Judge and a widow. We learn in verse 2 that the judge does not fear God, and thus he does not obey a higher law. We learn also that the judge does not regard men, so other human beings are not highly valued either. We learn later that his decision making is neither just nor compassionate. In contrast, we learn of the widow in verse 3 that she is poor, she is defenseless, she has an adversary and desires justice.

Verse 5 explains that the ruling of the judge is in her favor because of persistence.
"The Greek expression translated ‘weary me' is ‘hypopiazi me,' literally ‘strike me under the eyes.' The judge probably speaks facetiously. He will tire of seeing her, and her continued claim that she is not getting justice could give him a ‘black eye' publicly.[2]"

Yet another character is implied in this parable, God. In this instance God is implied by contrast to the unjust judge, see verses 7 and 8. In contrast we have the Just Judge Who at the appropriate time will hear the cries of His elect and Whose judgment is perfect, unlike the earthly judge. Additionally, when the time comes His judgment is swift. Swift judgment and the widow's case certainly do not speak to the situation of those of us, however, who are waiting in faith for God to act. Why the delay? Is it a test, or simply waiting for the appropriate time? An eternal perspective is necessary. Consider Kairos verses chronos, God's time verses chronological time. Perhaps is the purpose to strengthen His faithful?

Waiting on the Lord, in contrast to this parable is also lifted up for us. On the one hand we have this example and the words of Jesus Christ in chapter 7 of Matthew's Gospel:
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"

Yet on the other we have the example of the Ten Virgins who wait for the Bridegroom who in this same Gospel is delayed, and this parable ends with the command to watch! In fact it seems that the believer is told that between Christ's two comings, His Incarnation, and His Return, the only acceptable state is readiness. This readiness is achieved in large measure through constant prayer. In this statement we find perhaps the true value of this parable. St. Peter perhaps said it best in his first epistle: "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers." (1 Pet 4:7) St. Paul said it this way in Romans 13:11, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed." Or in Ephesians, "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light" (5:14). Our souls are at stake so beware!

Other pitfalls include doubting the Lord's return and listening following those who distort the doctrine of Christ: Again St. Cyril: "For the holy ministers and teachers who rightly divide the word of truth are assailed by all who are the truth's enemies; men ignorant of the sacred doctrines, and estranged from all uprightness, who walk in crooked paths, remote from the straight and royal road.[3]"

Matthew 24:11-13: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

1 Timothy 4:1-2: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron."

2 Timothy 3:13: "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

2 Peter 2:1-3: "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber."

A final quote from Archbishop Dmitri:
"The adversaries of the servants of God, against whom it is proper to ask His help in the struggle to keep the true faith and to live according to the Gospel, are then those who in the name of relevancy, of being realistic, and of keeping up with the times, entice believers to accept a new morality and tempt them to forsake the Savior's commandments. To bear patiently the test of discipleship in our days, the Christian must have faith. The question with which the Lord concludes this parable must make all of us wonder whether our own faith will endure to the end. Many imagine that God does not answer prayer – the devil wants us to think not – when He may be saying ‘no' for our own good, or simply ‘not yet.' The long delay in the promised second coming has caused some to lose faith or to conclude that the promise is not to be taken literally. So, the Lord asks His disciples, When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? He asks us the same.[4]"

Allow time for discussion. If time permits, read the passage once more.

End the bible study with a prayer.

[1] St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, Homily 119
[2] The Parables, Archbishop Dimitry, p. 110
[3] St. Cyril, homily 119
[4] Parables, p. 112

Prepared by Fr. Evan Armatas

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