After years of barbarianism and violence in the Promised Land, we finally see a glimpse of hope in the Book of Ruth. If the world had more people like Ruth and Boaz, it might be a better place today. Ruth fled the protection of her clan in Bethlehem and clung to Naomi, certainly not for self-advancement or a means of protection, simply out of love and respect. Ruth was a profound woman. She felt no shame in performing menial tasks; there was no question of loyalty for some better elsewhere. She was living out her life as God designed, in her circumstances, with the people in them. In this book, we also see a new type of character in Boaz – a kind, gentle man who graciously provides protection and food for a foreign widow. Kindness, love, and integrity are key themes, and due to their tremendous example, I hope I can live a life similar to those of Ruth and Boaz.
Though God does not promise good things will always happen to us, in the Book of Ruth, the author illustrates how faithfulness and integrity can result in almighty protection, returned kindness, and blessing. In this example, there’s a mutual exchange: faith + integrity = God’s blessing. Some might say this is “karma”: do good = receive good. In my current season of life, I can feel and see God’s blessing, but I do not act in the ways of Ruth, especially not in my work. Similar to Ruth as she gleaned in the fields, I too am often assigned to menial tasks. Instead of approaching these tasks with diligence and persistence, I feel frustrated and annoyed, almost as if it were an insult to my intelligence. These feelings inhibit my ability and desire to perform well.
Gleaning was a reflection of Ruth’s social status; in this case, poor and widowed. Gleaning without the protection of a husband was a bold and courageous act during these times. None of this fazed Ruth; she shamelessly endured long and arduous days in the fields. Through her own actions, Ruth formed a reputation in Israel: a foreign widow who left the protection of her father and mother in Bethlehem, a diligent and hard-working woman of faith and loyalty to God and her mother-in-law. Because of her actions and reputation, Ruth was shown kindness and acceptance in the eyes of Boaz. In this story, it is evident that actions result in reputation. How have my reactions and feelings toward menial tasks affected my reputation at work? Have I faithfully upheld my duty to work with integrity and diligence, or am I “just getting by”?
Ruth’s actions of loyalty and diligence may have earned her respect and blessing from Boaz, but the actions of Boaz may have been even more commendable in the eyes of the Lord. In this time period, he could have easily exploited Ruth for labor, sex, or both; and that would’ve been culturally acceptable. Instead, Boaz extends an incredibly kind and gracious offer to Ruth for protection in his fields.
I deeply admire Boaz’s kindness and sensitivity. It took very little effort for him to humble himself and do the right thing – something that is no longer commonplace in today’s society. This rare display of kindness and grace reminds me of my first encounter with a middle-eastern gentleman this past summer. His name was Medhi. Medhi was from Iran and had migrated to America several years ago. He left his homeland and family to pursue the “American Dream.” We spent several hours sharing our respective knowledge of engineering disciplines and learning about the other’s family, interests and the like. As our time together came to an end we said our goodbyes and well wishes.
Shortly thereafter we connected on Facebook where he gave me some of the most sincere, genuine, and impactful compliments I’ve ever received. “I have yet to meet an American like you” was something along the lines of what he said. His broken English, now seen in our first virtual exchange, captured his sincerity and appreciation for my simple acts of kindness and affection. Showing kindness, affection, and genuine care was simple for me, but for Medhi it was something he had never felt before (from another American). In our circumstances, society would say I had the upper hand on Medhi – more money, more education, more access to property and materials, more friends and family – therefore I wouldn’t gain anything interacting with him. Boaz had nothing to gain protecting Ruth and treating her out of respect and love. Boaz was a hero in the eyes of Ruth, just as I might have been to Medhi, simply because of kindness.
The story of Ruth and Boaz is one of my favorites. God’s provision in the lives of Ruth and Boaz was no secret. Boaz’s kindness clearly illustrated his ability to love others, treat them with kindness and respect, and his innate opposition towards self-promotion. Ruth’s character and reputation – filled with courage, loyalty, faithfulness, and diligence – granted her respect from Boaz and protection from God. As I reflect on this story, I pose two questions to myself: 1) how can I approach my work like Ruth? And 2) how can I show kindness and love like Boaz?