Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Psalm 119:97-104 • Genesis 32:22-31 and Psalm 121 • 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 • Luke 18:1-8
Today's story from Luke takes a little unpacking. What's happening is an unjust judge, one who could care less about justice. The way justice worked in Hebrew culture at the time was that people had to bring their own case against their opponents: there was no local district attorney's office keeping the law. To be justified in this world meant that the judge saw things according to one side: here, according to the widow's view.
Widows in the time of Jesus were a vulnerable group. Whether this particular widow was bringing up a legitimate matter, however, Jesus does not say. She might have had a serious worry; on the other hand, she might have been the kind of person who saw everything as a problem, quickly raising an alarm whenever there was the slightest suggestion of a threat to her. Whatever the case, the judge was vexed by her persistence and apparently a little afraid of what might happen next.
The Genesis reading, part of a longer story, provides a story of a person who definitely has something to worry about. At this point in the narrative, Jacob is sleepless, knowing that in the morning he will face his twin brother, Esau, from whom he had earlier stolen a huge inheritance. His brother is across the river with 400 men bearing arms. Jacob has his wives, children, slaves, oxen, donkeys, camels and sheep with him. Up all night, wrestling with a mysterious figure and also presumably with what he had done in his life, by dawn Jacob finds himself blessed and ready to reconcile with his brother.
Although these are very different stories, they have a couple of things in common. The first is a common thread of the complexity of justice. Jacob had used deceit to take from a brother who, for his part, could not be bothered to care about the family's fortune – who had been more interested in grabbing lunch than in attending to the future (Genesis 25:29). Jesus does not even bother to set up the Luke story in a way that lets us know whether the widow's request was in the right, suggesting that the point of the story had nothing to do with assigning blame. Both stories reflect the complexity of life, the necessity of getting beyond finding a scapegoat to understand the patterns happening around us.
Secondly, both stories are about being persistent. The widow and Jacob had identified what mattered to them. Jacob would not let the mysterious figure go. The widow would not let the judge off the hook. Both were willing to put themselves on the line for what they thought was important.
Morning: What am I worried about today? Where would I like to be less fretful and more persistent? When does blame get in the way?
Evening: How did I manage my worries today? How can I put them aside at the end of the day?