Prayer, Justice and Persistent Hope

October 20, 2013


When she learned of the death threats against her, Malala Yousafzai thought about how she would respond if a Talib came to kill her. She first thought she would hit him with her shoe, but then she thought, “If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty…you must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education. I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. I would say that’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.” That is what Malala Yousafzai told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, something that left him speechless, and reminds me of the strength, persistence and courage of the widow in our scripture text for today.

The scripture passage for today and the story of Malala Yousafzai are stories of women‐‐young and old‐‐who stand up for justice in the face of unjust power. One of the core principles of Judaism was the care of widows and orphans. The passage for today is a parable about a widow who repeatedly brings her case before a judge. We are told the judge “neither feared God nor had respect for people.” Most of our western translations give us the idea that this judge does not care about others, and that is certainly the effect of his actions. However, in the Middle East, the word we translate as “had no respect for” is always translated “does not feel shame”. In a shame‐honour culture, one doesn’t refrain from doing things because they are wrong, but because they are shameful. This judge has no inner sense of what is right and what is shameful. He cannot be shamed; “he is hurting a destitute widow. He should feel shame.” (Kenneth E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, p. 132)

Bible References

  • Luke 18:1 - 8