An unexpected guest arrived at my house one night last week. And, you’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t have anything to offer him to eat. Our electricity had gone out, so the food in the fridge was bad. We’re both broke, so ordering take-out was out. My next-door neighbor is a good friend and had cooked out earlier. He generally goes to bed fairly early, but a light was on, so I called over to see if he had any extra food my friend and I could have. Well, apparently he was on the wrong side of the bed, because he basically told me he was asleep and hung up on me. Thinking he may not have heard me right, I decided to go knock on his door. I had to knock and ring the doorbell several times, but I finally got his attention. More precisely, I got his wife’s attention. According to my neighbor, his wife had told him to give me whatever I asked so I’d stop bothering them and they could go to sleep. So, my friend and I had a nice late-night snack of ribs, chips, and pop, and my neighbor would prefer not to see me again for a while.
The above is basically the story Jesus tells in Luke 11:5-8. He tells a similar story in Luke 18:1-9 about a persistent widow who keeps pestering an unjust judge. The judge eventually relents and does his job.
These two stories are often told to encourage people to “pray and not give up” as Luke states in verse 1 of chapter 18 of his gospel. The problem is that so many pastors, teachers, preachers, and “wise” counselors assume that these stories (or parables) are parables of comparison. They are not. They are parables of contrast. What do I mean?
Jesus told many parables which he prefaced with, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?” (Luke 13:18) or something similar. Those are parables of comparison. In the two stories referenced above, Jesus does not say anything of the kind. Yet, many people assume that God is like the unjust judge or the neighbor. He will only do what you ask if you persist in pestering Him enough. This is a grave mistake which will severely distort your understanding of God. If you read on in Luke, you will find this:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” – Luke 11:9-13
The parallel passage in Matthew 7:11 says:
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Seriously, dads, don’t you want to give your kids what they want? I know, they shouldn’t get everything they want. They need to learn contentment and patience and all that. But, if your son skins his knee and asks you for help, do you put him off? Ignore him? (If you say yes, you’re a heartless jerk). No! You get him a Band-aid. You hug him and wipe away his tears. Why would we think God is worse?
“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” – Luke 18:7-8 (emphasis added).
Now, I’m not saying that God grants our every wish as soon as we ask (or at all), but he’s not unjust or annoyed with our requests. He loves us and wants the best for us. I don’t pretend to understand every difficult or tragic situation, but please don’t assume that God is like the jerks in the parables. He is the ultimate loving Daddy.
Which kind of judge/neighbor/dad are you?