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Man, Woman and Child

Luke 18:1 -- 17

Lesson audio

On his way to his last visit in Jerusalem, Christ takes the time to teach his disciples about the kingdom of God. Using stories and matters at hand, he imparts to them the simple yet profound character of the kingdom.

The Unjust Judge

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. "There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' "For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, '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.'" And the Lord said, "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? "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?"

(Luk 18:1-8 NASB)

Do not lose heart

Christ’s understanding of our prayer life is shown here. To tell a Jew of this time that he ought to pray would be redundant; to tell him that he ought to pray constantly would have been disbelieved (rightly so.) Instead, he identifies the problem most of us have with persistence in prayer: we give up much too soon. Why?

  • Some of us think ourselves too much a sinner to pray effectively. That we are all sinners is clear; Christ inquires only of your direction, not the pig wallow you came from.
  • Others – raised on evangelists who tell you to repeat this prayer, word for word – feel they don’t have the right words. Prayer is not magic. If you still think you need the right words, read the Psalms. But pray.
  • For most of us it’s simply this: God never gives me what I ask for. This is usually a sign that God will give you what you need; it’s obvious you don’t know what’s good for you. There is a reason we don’t give submachine guns to small children.
  • Sometimes we just give up too soon. Wait upon the Lord, as the Scriptures say.
The dishonest judge

That’s the usual title; it would be more fittingly called The Persistent Widow. I call your attention to her characteristics:

  • She’s a widow – which in that time meant “poverty stricken.” This is not someone whom God has favored in matters monetary. It is safe to conclude that there is nothing extraordinary about her relationship to God.
  • Note, please, her simplicity. She does not approach with a smorgasbord of demands, as we sometimes do. Nor does her cause seem particularly important in the larger scheme of things; no grandeur here. The cause was important only to her. This doesn’t sound so noble, does it?
  • Of course, we note her persistence.

Christ’s comparison is not that we must nag God over and over again; it’s that our persistence will be rewarded both quickly and richly.


We often feel the Almighty to be too slow with us. Patience is a virtue; God’s patience with the sinners of this world is an excellent example. Remember that while he is delaying what you want he may be the salvation they need. Do you not see what this is? The question is not so much of “how persistent” we need to be; it is more a question of whether or not we trust him – or lose heart along the way. There is a connection between faith and prayer; the kingdom of God is built by the prayers of the faithful.


And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

(Luk 18:9-14 NASB)

An exceeding righteousness

Let us begin by stating the obvious: the Pharisee is factually correct. He is more righteous than the other guy.

  • The Law required fasting only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday.
  • The Law required a tithe of most major agricultural things; he exceeds this by tithing even the herbs from his garden.

The problem is not his practice but his attitude.

  • He despises the tax collector; it is an attitude of hatred.
  • He passes judgment on the tax collector (how we are taught not to do that).
  • He assumes that God agrees with him.

But note one thing: what was it the Pharisee wanted of God? The only thing mentioned here is for God to agree with his assessment of himself and the tax collector. Even that is not certain; whatever his request was, it’s missing now. He did not go to the Temple to seek the Almighty in prayer; he went to tell the Almighty how lucky he was to have a servant like me.

The tax collector

The tax collector at least had a clear idea of why he was there.

  • He had a clear idea of who he was. He was a tax collector, a toad who worked for the invading Romans. As we can see from the Pharisee’s pronouncement, that makes him worse that swindlers, the unjust or even adulterers.
  • He had a clear idea of who he wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t righteous; he knew he wasn’t worthy. To the extent that he didn’t even go up near the temple; he’s at the back of the church in the hope that the preacher won’t notice him.
  • He had a clear idea of what he wanted. He wanted mercy; mercy from the God whose mercies are new every morning. And he got it.

The kingdom of God comes in prayer; also in humility.

Suffer the little children

And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."

(Luk 18:15-17 NASB)

It is useful here to ask, just what characteristics of a young child are commendable to the Christian? Here are a few:


Do remember that Christ spoke in a culture in which children were last and least. It was also a society in which the Prodigal Son was a minority. Of obedience in children we may observe:

  • It is commanded, expected and fruitful even though you don’t know “why.” Children are taught to do as they are told; the explanations sometimes come years later.
  • Children know that obedience pleases both God and their parents. Such pleasure leads to good; disobedience to hard times.
  • It is a good habit for children, indeed for their own good. There is a reason we don’t let them play soccer on the freeway.
Open to be taught

Children are naturally curious. They want to know things. For the childlike faith we should take the same attitude. We should want to know.

We should not desire just any answer. Like our children, we want to know the right answer. Good enough, isn’t

Indeed, as any parent can tell you, “Why?” is the most frequent question. To grow in understanding is to grow as a Christian.

In over their heads

Small children are simply not capable of understanding or handling their world. They are accustomed to the idea that they would not understand.

  • It’s common to them to be “out of the loop.” They know that they don’t know everything.
  • When they do know, it’s common that they don’t understand.
  • Indeed, once they master one level of comprehension, they find that the onion of knowledge indeed has many layers.

It is this willingness to live without knowing everything, yet curious about all things, that marks the Christian who has learned to “wait upon the Lord.”


Little children have that innocent trust which renders them both charming and helpless.

  • They know that their parents love them.
  • They know that their parents are strong.
  • They understand that the power to correct them is also the power to save them.

Put God in those three bullets and see if that doesn’t mean trust.


Little children have this too: they are loyal to their parents and their family.

Now, look back on those things: obedience, the ability to be taught, comfortable even though they’re in over their heads, trusting and loyal – do these not describe the child of God?

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