Parables and Children
Persistence in Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
Compared to some of the other parables of Jesus, this one is easier to understand even though it contains difficult elements. Luke tells us what the purpose of the parable is up front: It is to teach men to always pray and not to give up.
The parable uses a widow who need justice but who must plead her case before an unjust judge. A widow is used because such women were often had no one to defend their cause (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 27:19). Because the judge doesn’t fear God, arguments from the law concerning what is the right thing to do will not persuade him to give justice. The Law commanded judges to defend the helpless (Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3), but that would not impact this man. Because he doesn’t respect men, emotional arguments based on sympathy for a fellow human will not sway him. But one thing will break down his armor – her persistent plea that he do something. Because of his selfish desire not to be bothered by this woman, he will grant what she wants so he will no longer have to listen to her.
This parable teaches by contrast. The judge in the parable is unjust, but God in heaven is just (Job 34:10-12). If an unjust judge will listen to a plea from one he despises simply because she is persistent, then what would a reasonable person expect from God when the many He loves come before him? It may appear to us that He is delaying as God acts patiently with sinners (II Peter 3:9). But He will not delay justice forever. When the appropriate time comes, God will act quickly.
Thus we too should be persistent in our prayers (I Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 12:12), not from a motivation of breaking down God’s resistence but from knowing that God will answer our sincere prayers (Colossians 4:2).
Prayer is a direct expression of faith. Because we bring our problems before God, we demonstrate our belief that God is able to solve them and will solve them. Yet, Jesus wonders if his followers would be able to retain their faith and their persistence in prayer all the way to the end (I Peter 4:7; Hebrews 3:14).
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
Again, we are told what the parable is about before we are told the parable. This parable is about men who see themselves as being more righteous than their fellow men (Proverbs 30:12-13; Isaiah 65:5; I Corinthians 13:1-3).
Two men went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee was a member of a Jewish sect who saw themselves as the epitome of righteousness. In his prayer he lists out why he believe himself to be righteous and better than others. His prayer is similar to the way the Laodiceans viewed themselves (Revelation 3:17-18). In his boasts he claims to not only meet the Law’s requirements, but to exceed them. The prayer of the tax collector stands in stark contrast both in its humbleness and its simplicity. He stood back, showing fear to approach the holy God. He could not even lift up his eyes to heaven (Psalm 40:12; Ezra 9:6). Jesus states that only the tax collector went home justified. The Pharisee didn’t acknowledge that he had sins and didn’t ask for any to be forgiven. The tax collector saw his sins and asked for mercy (James 4:6).
Children (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17)
Parents brought their children to Jesus to have him pray for them. Likely the parents were looking for blessings for their children from the great prophet. Such blessings were often done by laying hands on the head of the one being blessed (Genesis 48:14-15). The disciples saw this as a distraction to Jesus and were trying to discourage the parents. But Jesus told them not to prevent the children from coming to him because such belonged to the kingdom of heaven.
To become a part of the church a person must be like a child in innocence toward sin, teachableness, joy of life, and all other aspects of a child’s personality (I Peter 2:1-2; 1:14; I Corinthians 14:20). This is another piece of evidence that children are not born totally depraved as taught by many denominations.
But children are also those who will some day become adults and members of the church. We should consider this when considering bringing our children to services. They will be members of the future church one day. When is the best time to develop habits for the future? (Proverbs 22:6).