Luke 18:1-30: The Kingdom of God and Social Relationships
Green, Bridgett Arnice
Read together as a narrative whole, the parables and stories in Luke 18:1-30 illustrate various examples of humanity’s call to respond to and participate in the kingdom of God. For generations, biblical scholars interpret and analyze them either as morality tales or as justice-oriented discourses about God’s power to upend Roman imperialism and social values that privilege the powerful over the poor and powerless. These theological enterprises assert that God and Jesus are responsible for transforming individuals and society to the exclusion of humanity’s participation or agency in the process. In this project, I argue that these narratives—the parables of a widow and judge and of the Pharisee and tax collector as well as stories of Jesus blessing the children and of his engagement with a rich ruler—envision polyvalent views of the kingdom of God involving a temporal and eternal realm in which all humanity actively participates in eliminating subordinating power relations for the purposes of creating a reality of justice, dignity, and liberation. Using narrative criticism and intersectional approaches with postcolonial hermeneutics, I examine transformations in the power dynamics of social relationships in each story. These transformations challenge many aspects of Roman oppression and colonialism, counters imperial narratives, and fosters postcolonial consciousness among hearers and readers. Therefore, these stories are subversive texts—hidden transcripts—that hide in plain sight a counter-narrative to the status quo, which uplifts power, prestige, and property. Luke’s vision of the kingdom of God illustrates the power of individual choices either to maintain or to eradicate systemic oppression and injustice; the theological and the political are also personal.