I love parables. I love analogies. One of my favorite people on earth is Robert Krulwich, who has made a career out of explaining complex things. Using stories, analogies, and approximations, he can get ordinary people to understand extraordinary things. Kind of like Jesus—only, so far, Robert hasn’t been killed for trying.
I love parables, but I’m not sure the one Jesus uses in thisSunday’s gospel lesson is actually effective. Sure, modesty isn’t my strong suit, but even I have a hard time criticizing Jesus, so I recognize that the problem is really me. So far, though, I can’t figure this one out. Well, I can figure it out, but I don’t like what it says.
Basically, there was an unjust judge who neither feared God or had respect for other people. An annoying widow came to him over and over, asking for him to make things right for her. Finally, in response to her persistence and not because he really cared, the judge granted her request. And THAT’S supposed to help us keep praying?
This is a “how-much-more” parable. In other words, Jesus is making a comparison between God and something else and implicitly (or in this case explicitly) asking “How much more will God…?” The point of this parable is that a supremely just God is far more likely to answer the needs of his people than an unjust judge, but I’m still left with a comparison I don’t like. Sometime the analogy breaks down, and I worry that this is one of those times. Maybe I need to call a judge who is a friend of mine and ask him what he thinks.
Sure, God is just. Sure, God answers prayer. Of course, we’re not supposed to lose heart. Yes, we need to keep on praying. I get all of that, but is this parable really the right way to teach it? What am I missing here? What is Jesus trying to say to me that I don’t yet understand?