Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 1) – Sometimes, You Gotta Run a Paper Route!

Posted: October 24, 2017 in Book of Ruth
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Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 1 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

Back when my girls were little and I was still married to their mom and we were having financial troubles (mainly due to my first wife’s problems with addiction to narcotics, God rest her soul, then after that she became addicted to spending money left and right). During those days, I had to do something to right our ship financially (well as much I could in those days). Back in those days, I took on a paper route for six years. Rain or shine, seven days a week, the paper route called. It was dirty work with paper ink rubbing off on you and paper dust all in your car and on your clothes. When you deliver papers to 400 customers on your route, my little car at the time would be full of newspapers. And it was backbreaking work trying to drive and move the heavy bundles of newspapers from back seat to front while driving.

And, then, Sundays. Oh my God, Sundays. You would have to pick up the feature sections of those Sunday papers on Saturday afternoon and roll those papers and then place them in the car and they would fill the car up from the hatchback area, the backseat from floor to ceiling. Then, you would have to get the headline sections of the Sunday paper at the normal drop point at the normal time on early Sunday morning. Then, as you proceeded on your route, you would put the pre-rolled feature sections (that you rolled on Saturday afternoon) together with the headline sections for what would then be this behemoth newspaper. Since there is no rubber band made that will hold that behemoth together after being thrown through the air and landing on a driveway, I would have to insert the whole shebang into a rainy weather paper bag so that it would all hold together on impact with a customers driveway and so it would more easily slide into a paper tube if a customer had one of those. Weekdays were hard but Sundays were the hardest. Seven days a week. Even to just go on vacation, it had to be planned well in advance so you could get someone to run your route for you. Then, I would have go do my regular job day in and day out as well. But I did it. Day in and day out. I had to put food on the table of my family. I had to take care of them. It was ugly dirty filthy work but you do what you have to do. Even then, you have to do it with dignity and give it your best. Because your paper route customers don’t know you from Adam’s house cat and they just know you are some guy who delivers their paper. They don’t care about your backstory or your excuses. They shouldn’t have to.

Back in 2000 during the recession that occurred after the internet stock craze fizzled and the economy crashed, I had the perfect timing of losing my job where I was making pretty good money for a 38 year old. But work was hard to find during that time. I was in my second marriage at that time so I not only had my second family to support but I had my child support obligations to my own children as well. None of things stop just because you are out of work. So, with jobs in my profession hard to come by, I had to take some kind of job to keep income coming into my house. I worked for two months in the Bi-Lo Grocery Stores main warehouse in Greenville until I found a job in my profession. Talk about back breaking work. You would go into work around 5pm and work till all the orders for I think half of the Bi-Lo stores for which this warehouse was responsible were fulfilled. Sometimes that would be mean working until 12 midnight, sometimes 1am and sometimes 2am. It was the hardest physical labor that I have ever, ever done in my life. Every muscle would ache when I got off work. Riding motorized pallets around the warehouse picking items placing them on the pallet in and organized fashion so that the stuff would not fall over as you sped from one section of the warehouse to the other. When you got your order from the foreman, you would have to look it over to see what need to be stacked at the bottom, what next after than and so on to the small stuff that could be stacked on top. Then you would zip around the warehouse dodging the myriad of other order fulfillment guys zipping around. You would go from subzero temps of the freezer area to pick up meats all the way to the subtropical heat of the fruit and vegetable area of the warehouse. You would go from freezing to sweating within 10 minutes of an order fulfillment run. All of the stuff no matter where it was, was heavy. I would be so tired at the end of a shift that literally every muscle in my body would ache, including the muscles in my toes and fingers. But I did it to the best of my ability. It was not my life’s work but it was to put food on the table at home. You have to do whatever it takes sometimes. And you have to do it with excellence or at least to the best of your ability. I will admit, that job was physically overwhelming and I am sure that I was not the best at it compared to some of the more experienced younger guys that worked there, but they all liked me because I gave it my all – even though I was not some buff dude like them.

That is what gets me about some people who would rather stay at home and do nothing and expect the world to take care of them when there are jobs out there to be had. Sure, it might not be the glamorous job you want but it’s work. And I see this stretch across social status, race, economic status, you name it. There are just people who expect to have an office job where they file papers and drink coffee and each lunch on the plaza. When they can’t get that kind of job, they would rather sit at home and do nothing rather than work. There are jobs out there working in warehouses. There are jobs out there working in factories. There are jobs out there working in kitchens of fast food restaurants. There are jobs out there working in the most menial of tasks. They ain’t pretty jobs but they are jobs. There is dignity in taking care of yourself. There is honor in working any kind of job. Sometimes, we have to do what we have to do no matter what it is to keep food on our tables. I’ve done it. That’s why I appreciate the season of blessing that I find myself in now. And that is why I so ever thankful to God for it too. I am not too far removed from my past that I cannot remember the hard times and the doing whatever it took phase of my life.

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the first of five reads through this morning – how Ruth decided that sometimes in life you gotta take the initiative to change your circumstances. You cannot wait for God to place something in your lap. Sometimes, He expects us to get up and get going. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 for the first of five blogs today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that Ruth made her home in a foreign land. Instead of depending on Naomi or waiting on for good fortune to happen, she took initiative. She went to work. She was not afraid of admitting her need or working hard to supply it. When Ruth went out to the fields, God provided for her. If you are waiting for God to provide, consider this: He may be waiting for you to take the first step to demonstrate just how important your need is. As well, while working, Ruth’s task was menial, tiring, and, perhaps, degrading, she performed her task faithfully. What is your attitude when the task you have been given is not up to what you consider to be your true potential? The task at hand may be what God wants you to be doing right now at this moment as a way of teaching you to be faithful in whatever you are doing. It also may be test of character before God so that He can determine if you are ready for the next phase of your life that He has in store for you.

Even if you have to flip burgers at Burger King on second shift during the busiest hours at the restaurant and its hot and its sweaty and your ankles are sore from being on your feet for four or five hours without a break, that’s what we have to do sometimes. Even if you think working at Burger King is beneath you, sometimes that’s what God places us so that He can see if we will (1) actually swallow our pride and do it, and (2) take the job on and be faithful in it regardless of how small and meaningless it seems, and (3) to see if we are ready for what He has in store next. You may take a job at Burger King and it leads you to a job in management there or it may bring you in contact with a person that sees how hard you work and offers you a job in the profession that you have been dreaming of. How often do we miss God’s ordained opportunities because we are too proud to walk down a path that seems beneath us? How often do we think we have to be the star of the show at a church activity and won’t do it because we are given a menial task that we think is beneath us. Work. Church. It doesn’t matter. God gives us tasks and we must do whatever they are to the best of our ability and to His glory. We must trust that He has a purpose in our Burger King kitchen assignments and then do them to the best we can do them. There’s honor in it. There’s giving glory to God in it. and He will reward it.

Amen and Amen.

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