Christianity 201

January 11, 2023

God is Always on the Side of the Marginalized

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NRSVUE.Luke.18.1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “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 accuser.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”  And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We’re grateful for permission to occasionally share some of the excellent material crafted by Rev. David Eck, pastor of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in North Carolina, at the website Jesus Unboxed.

This passage of scripture is always interesting to study, and I like the way David breaks down various layers of meaning. As always, click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8)

Today’s gospel lesson is known as the Parable of the Unjust Judge. If it seems a little weird to you, go with that feeling. If it seems a bit schizophrenic in what it’s trying to teach us, go with that, too! This is one of those parables that needs a bit of deconstruction in order to discover what it’s trying to teach us. One of the easiest ways to do this, that works with any parable, is to treat it like an onion. Not in terms of scent, but in terms of layers!

Every parable has three layers. The outer layer is what I call the EVANGELIST LAYER. It asks the question “How did the evangelist understand the parable? What information did he put before it and after it that might give us clues regarding how he understands its meaning?”

The second layer is the JESUS LAYER. It asks the question “Who did Jesus intend to hear this parable? What situation or question was he trying to address?”

Finally, the third layer is the ROOT PARABLE. This is the pure story stripped of all layers of interpretation or context. We try to listen to it without prejudice or preconceived notions regarding its meaning.

The reason why today’s parable seems a bit weird or schizophrenic is because each of these layers is trying to teach us something slightly different. They are connected in some way, but they are sending a bit of a mixed message.

If I were doing a Bible study on this parable, we would look at all three layers in detail. But we don’t have that kind of time in the context of a sermon. So my plan is to jump to the root parable, and explore it thoroughly. Once we’ve done that, I’m going to go out a bit because there’s something in the Jesus layer that enhances this parable’s central meaning.

So, let’s begin with the story. Luke says once upon a time “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.”

Just to make sure we heard this less than flattering description, Luke repeats it a second time, using the voice of the judge, who begins his sentence with “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone…”

Wow, needless to say Jesus is Not trying to say that God is like this judge. In fact, the opposite is true. This judge has horrible moral character. The only person he is interested in is himself.

To reinforce this description of the judge, Jesus introduces the character of a widow, who appears before the judge and asks for justice against those who are oppressing her. The assumption made here, is that her cause is just. She is, indeed, being oppressed.

Since Judaic law makes provisions for helping those most vulnerable in society, such as widows, orphans and resident aliens, it should be a no brainier for this judge to grant her the justice she seeks. However, as the story continues she comes before to this judge multiple times and he refuses to grant her the justice she seeks.

There is no doubt many of us can relate to this widow’s sense of powerlessness and desperation. Even if we haven’t experienced this personally, we’ve read story after story of people around the globe who are being marginalized and oppressed by those in power. I’m not going to list them all, because we would be here for a very long time.

Perhaps this parable is here to remind us, that this issue is nothing new. People in power are always tempted to abuse that power. Marginalization and oppression of the weak and vulnerable have always been with us as a species, and they always will be.

If we read the Bible from cover to cover, we will find countless stories of oppressed people who long for justice. Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t. If we have ever been in this situation in life, These stories speak strongly to us. Their main point is to give us hope.

Believe it or not, there is some hope in this parable. The unjust judge finally gives the widow justice. But it’s not because he has a change of heart and becomes a good guy. He grants her justice because, to put it bluntly, she’s a pain in his backside. She is relentless in her appeals for justice. She refuses to give up hope that one day her pleas will be heard.

The unjust judge is very clear on this matter, as he says to himself, “Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” That’s hardly a transformative victory. The unjust judge is still a scoundrel, but he gives in because this oppressed widow does not give up. Did you hear what I said? He gives in because this oppressed widow does not give up.

Unfortunately, the English translation of this parable misses a humorous image in the story that helps us to appreciate it even more. In the original Greek, the unjust judge says “Because this widow causes trouble for me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not, in the end, give me a black eye by her coming.”

What Luke cleverly does is place this parable in the context of a boxing metaphor. His audience would picture this scrappy little widow coming at the judge with her dukes up, refusing to yield or be defeated. This humorous image is meant to inspire the audience. If we hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people, it’s the message that we should never give up when we are fighting for a cause that is just and true. We should fight oppressive powers with every fiber of our being and refuse to give up in the face of injustice.

If that’s the meaning of this parable, then I do believe that will preach! It is the good news of Scripture that is reflected in the lives  of countless justice seekers throughout the world, including Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Susan B. Anthony and Nelson Mandela.

If we look to Jesus to set the example for us, we see many stories in the gospels of rejected and marginalized people whom Jesus welcomes with open arms. Yet, we also know that his sense of kingdom justice made the unjust judges of his world very nervous and angry. It ultimately cost him his life.

That is the price that some of us have paid, and will pay, when fighting for what is just and right in our world. This is the sobering truth. But the overall message of the root parable is to encourage us to put on our boxing gloves and keep coming at the oppressive powers of our world until they do what it right. We may not change their minds, but we can wear them down. Amen?

But now it’s time to expand the parable at bit and look at some of the Jesus layer. In the Jesus layer, he says something about the nature and character of God that those who fight for justice need to hear. If we go back to Matthew 17:22, we learn that Jesus is telling this parable to his disciples. Therefore, it’s meant for us. It’s an insider story. It’s meant to encourage and uplift.

What he says that we need to hear is “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to the chosen ones who cry to God day and night? Will God delay long in helping them? I tell you, God will quickly grant justice to them.”

The reason why this is important for us to hear is that it’s telling us God is always, ALWAYS on the side of the marginalized and oppressed. God hears our cries, God feels our pain, and is working behind the scenes to tip the scales toward justice each and every day.

We need to hear this because our default button when something goes wrong in our lives, is to wonder what we did to deserve this? “Why is God punishing me?” is a question I’ve heard more times than I care to recount. It’s a view of God as a punitive deity, who is ready to strike us down for the smallest of mistakes. It’s a view of God that tells us we’re oppressed because we’re lazy and we’re not fighting hard enough for what is rightfully ours. It equates God with the behavior of the unjust judge, and I’M NOT HAVING ANY OF THIS! And you should NOT HAVE ANY OF THIS!

To put it another way, God is more for us than we are for or against ourselves. God ALWAYS fights for justice. God ALWAYS stands in solitarily with the marginalized and oppressed. This, THIS should give us the inspiration we need to do the same. THIS should give us the moxie we need to keep putting on our boxing gloves, and going toe-to-toe with the unjust judges of our world.

Pick a battle, any battle, my dear friends! There are lots of causes to fight for these days. May we have the conviction to stand up to oppressive powers wherever they may be and demand that justice be served. AMEN!

Copyright ©2022 by David Eck – Used by Permission

January 17, 2011

Focus on Jesus

I have frequented Texas pastor Trey Morgan’s blog even before I started my own.   This appeared first on his blog last week as Eight Things That Amaze Me About Jesus.


  1. He Cared About People. We need more people like this. Jesus put others needs before his own. He didn’t just feel sorry for people, he actually served others, loved them and guided them into a relationship with his Father. He didn’t look for “deserving” people to care for (there were none) … but “undeserving.” He healed, fed and touched those in need (Mark 10:45). He taught us what real ministry is: Service. There was no class distinction for Jesus. He cared for the fishermen, tax collectors, the adulterer and the 5 time divorcee. He cared about people.
  2. Jesus Was A Man of Action. His life would have been one big action movie. There was nothing boring about his life. He spent his time here not just telling people how to live, but showing (action) people how to live (John 14:9). He calls you and I to the same life of adventure, and anybody who says being a follower of Jesus is boring … doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about.
  3. Jesus was a Communicator. There seems to be two kinds of teachers in this world … communicators and intellectuals. Communicators take the difficult and make it simple. Intellectuals take the simple and make it difficult. Unfortunately, there are far too many intellectuals trying to communicate the Gospel today. Jesus was simply a communicator. Jesus didn’t preach many “expository” sermons and nor did he quote lots of scripture, however, the overwhelming majority of the time he told stories and painted pictures. He taught with a towel, a bird, a flower, a shepherd, a son, a coin, a flower, a child, a plank and other stories to make his point. He knew how to communicate.
  4. Jesus Had Something To Say. After he preached the sermon on the mount, the people were amazed by his teaching because he taught with authority (Matthew 7:28-29). Like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Jesus talked, people listened. Jesus taught on significant things that people needed to know. Things like eternity, death, how to treat one another, how to forgive and how to enter the Kingdom of God. He didn’t spend much time preaching about the Hittites, Perizzites or Jebusites.
  5. Jesus Offended the Religious People & Hung Out With Sinners. The only people who Jesus looked down on were the “religious” people who looked down on others. Jesus didn’t give a rip what the religious people thought of him. Jesus called them snakes, vipers and white washed tombs (Matthew 23:25-36). Instead, Jesus hung out with sinners. The people Jesus reached out to were the “sinners”, the prostitutes, the fishermen, the adulterer, the divorcee and the tax collectors (Luke 19:10, Matthew 9:12). Jesus hung out with the wrong type of people. He hung out with them so much that he was even accused of being a drunkard and a glutton.
  6. Jesus Came as a Common Man. It amazes me that Jesus, the Son of God, came not as a prince born in a fancy clean castle, but instead as a common man born in a barn. He worked, sweated, hurt, became angry, was happy, was sad, was tempted and experienced death. All the same things I experience day to day. He knows what it’s like to be a common person and relates to my struggles (Hebrews 2:18).
  7. Jesus Offered What No One Else Could. Sales people will promise you the sky, but only Jesus can give you peace and salvation (John 14:27, John 14:6). No one can give you what Jesus can.
  8. Jesus … (You Fill in # 8 With One You Like!)

~Trey Morgan