Creating Economic Opportunities for the Poor (Ruth 2) - God’s Word for Work, Online Video Bible Study
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Creating Economic Opportunities for the Poor (Ruth 2)
1. Leader gathers the group in an online meeting.
2. Leader shares screen and audio.
3. Leader plays video. The video includes:
- Introduction to God's Word for Work
- Opening prayer
- Bible reading: Ruth 2
- 1 minute for quiet reflection
- Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: Ruth and Work
4. Leader pauses the video and the group discusses the readings.
5. Leader resumes the video with the closing prayer.
God, we invite you to speak to us through the Bible today. Show us what your word means for our work. Amen.
Bible reading: Ruth 2
There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.”
And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”
Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!”
And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!”
Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?”
So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.”
So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
Then she said, “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.”
Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.
And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.”
So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”
Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”
Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’ ”
And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter, that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.” So she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end of barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: Ruth and Work
1) God leads individuals to provide economic opportunities for the poor and vulnerable
Boaz was inspired to go significantly beyond what the law required in providing for the poor and vulnerable. The gleaning laws merely required landowners to leave some produce in the fields for foreigners, orphans and widows to glean. This generally meant the poor and vulnerable had difficult, dangerous, uncomfortable work, such as harvesting grain at the weedy edges of fields or high up in olive trees. The produce they obtained this way was usually of inferior quality, such as grapes and olives that had fallen to the ground or had not fully ripened.
But Boaz tells his workers to be actively generous. They were to remove first-quality grain from the stalks they had cut, and leave them lying on top of the stubble so Ruth would merely need to pick them up. Boaz’s concern was not to minimally fulfill a regulation, but to genuinely provide for Ruth and her family.
Furthermore, he insisted that she glean in his fields (keeping what she harvested for herself and Naomi, of course) and attach herself to his workers. He not only gave her access to his fields, he effectively made her one of his hired hands, even to the point of making sure she received a pro-rata share of the harvest.
2) God’s blessing is redoubled when people work according to His ways.
In the remarkable episode of Ruth gleaning in Boaz’s field, we see a vivid demonstration of Boaz’s compassion, generosity, and ethnic tolerance. This raises the question: Why was Boaz’s heart so soft toward Ruth, and why would he create this environment where anyone, even an alien Moabite woman, would feel at home? According to Boaz’s own testimony Ruth embodied nobility and faithfulness to the true God. As a result, he wished her to “have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:12).
Born in Moab, she had nonetheless turned to the God of Israel for salvation. Boaz recognized God’s wings over her and was eager to be the instrument of God’s blessing for her. By caring for a destitute foreigner, he honored the God of Israel. In the words of the Israelite proverb: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him” (Proverbs 14:31). The apostle Paul expressed this theme centuries later, “Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
As the story progressed, Boaz began to see Ruth as more than an industrious worker and faithful daughter-in-law to Naomi. In time he spread the wings of his garment over Ruth — an apt metaphor for marriage, mirroring the love and commitment represented by the wings of God. There is a work-related aspect to this love story, for there is real estate involved. Naomi still has some claim to the land that belonged to her late husband, and according to Israelite Law, his next-of-kin had the right to acquire the land and keep it in the family by marrying Naomi.
Boaz, whom Naomi has mentioned was a kinsman of her husband, was actually second in line to this right. He informs the man who is next-of-kin of his right, but when the man learns that claiming the land means he must also bring the Moabite Ruth into his household, he repudiates the right.
Boaz, in contrast, was pleased to be chosen by God to show favor to this woman, despite her being considered racially, economically, and socially inferior. He exercises his right to redeem the property, not by wedding the elderly Naomi in a marriage of convenience, but with Naomi’s permission by marrying Ruth in a match of love and respect.
By marrying this Moabite woman, he fulfills in his own way a bit of God’s promise to Abraham that “by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing” (Genesis 22:18). He also gains yet more property, which we may assume he manages as productively and generously as the property he already owned, foreshadowing Christ’s words that “to those who have, more will be given” (Mark 4:25). As we will soon learn, it is entirely apt that Boaz should serve as a forerunner to Jesus. Along the way, the events of the story reveal still more about how God is at work in the world for good.
3) God works through human ingenuity
In instigating the courtship between Boaz and Ruth, necessity once again leads Naomi to move beyond the bounds of convention. She sends Ruth to Boaz’s threshing floor in the middle of the night to “uncover his feet and lie down” (Ruth 3:4). Regardless of the meaning of “feet” — which may be a sexual euphemism — the scheme Naomi concocts is suspicious from the standpoint of custom and morality, and it is fraught with danger. Ruth’s preparations and the choice of location for the encounter suggest the actions of a prostitute.
Under normal circumstances, if a self-respecting and morally noble man like Boaz, sleeping at the threshing floor, should wake up in the middle of the night and discover a woman beside him he would surely send her off, protesting that he had nothing to do with women like her. Ruth’s request that Boaz marry her is similarly bold from a perspective of custom: a foreigner propositioning an Israelite; a woman propositioning a man; a young person propositioning an older person; a destitute field worker propositioning a rich landowner.
But instead of taking offense at Ruth’s forwardness, Boaz blessed her, praised her for her commitment to the well-being of her family, called her “my daughter,” reassured her by telling her not to fear, promised to do whatever she asked, and pronounced her a noble woman. This extraordinary reaction is best attributed to the inspiration of God filling his heart and his tongue when he awoke.
- How does what you heard apply to your work?
God, thank you for being present with us today. Please stay with us in our work, wherever we go. Amen.