Looking at Scripture through cross-cultural lenses

November 6th, 2012 at 11:49 am

It is amazing the lessons we can learn cross-culturally by studying scripture with cross-cultural eyes.  Today let’s look at the story of Ruth especially focusing on Ruth 2:15-16.

We know the story of Ruth.  Her husband dies and his brother dies and Naomi, Ruth’s mother- in- law decides to go back to her homeland of Judah.  One daughter-in-law stays with her family in Moab but Ruth goes back with Naomi to a land where she is a foreigner, an immigrant.  We are not told any reason for Ruth’s decision to leave her home and go with Naomi except her love of Naomi and her commitment to her as her new family.

When they arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth goes into the fields of Naomi’s kinsman to glean wheat so that she and Naomi could eat.  Boaz notices her and talks with her.  He is kind and allows her to glean behind the reapers and even drink of the water his workers drink.  But he does one more thing I find both curious and insightful.  In chapter 2 verses 15-16, he asks the reapers to pull handfuls of grain and leave it for her to gather.

Wouldn’t it have been easier and wouldn’t Boaz have seemed even more generous and gracious if he had just given her the wheat and sent her home.  She would not have had to work in the fields from sun up to sun down, she would have known he was taking care of her and would have been even more grateful for his generosity.  But he didn’t.  And why he didn’t is a lesson for us all.

Whether Boaz knew it or not his decision to let Ruth work for the grain rather than just having it given to her was as big a gift as the wheat.  Ruth needed her self-esteem and self worth as much as she needed food.  To have given her the wheat would have robbed her of that and would have made her totally reliant and indebted to Boaz.  Boaz chose to do what was best for Ruth instead of what was easiest and more gratifying for himself.  He helped but he did not take from her the joy of knowing she was helping herself and Naomi.

How does this story resonate with you?  What do you think you would have done in Boaz’s place?  Have you ever found yourself helping someone in ways that make you feel good but maybe not in the best interest of the person you are helping?  It can be easy to do, and if we are honest most of us have probably been guilty of this ourselves, but this reminder from Boaz can help us make the best choice.  Help is not help if it costs the recipient their self worth. Help is not help if it is more about meeting the helper’s need than the recipient’s need.  Let us help because Christ’s love within us compels us to love in deed  (1 John 3:18) and do so in a way that reflects his great love for each of us.

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