Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 3) – Hey, I Give to United Way! (And Other Minimum Acts)

Posted: October 26, 2017 in Book of Ruth, Uncategorized
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Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 3 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

How often do you hear it? I have done my part! I gave to United Way. I have done my part! I give my weekly $25 bucks to my church. I have done my part! I gave to the hurricane relief fund. I gave the homeless man $0.50 yesterday. We absolve ourselves of generosity by throwing a minimum of money at a situation. We complain about the poor. We complain about the crime in inner cities. We complain about gangs. We complain about it all. But, don’t raise our taxes and, boy, don’t ask me personally to do anything about it! Don’t ask me to give of my time to go into the inner city and help with the basic problem of crime and gangs – lack of education leading to lack of opportunities. Don’t ask me to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to social issues. I pay my taxes. I contribute to United Way. I give to a little bit to my church. All those things should be solving the problem. We complain about how all these problems are being solved by agencies and church organizations and we talk about how it could be done better, but don’t ask me to go do anything about it. We throw a minimum amount of money at the situations and think we have done our part.

Don’t ask me to go out of my way. Don’t ask me to get off the couch. Don’t ask me to give up my weekends. Don’t ask me to giving up my season tickets to Clemson football or the money I spend on tailgating and partying before and after the game. Don’t ask me to give up my boat. Don’t ask me to give up my Sunday afternoon on the lake. Don’t ask me to give downsize my mortgage and leave my gated community and my two story, four bedroom house. Don’t ask me to give up my big screen TV in every room. Don’t ask me to give up all my toys. I treasure these things and because I do, I can only do the minimum when it comes to generosity of my time, talents, and resources. I value all these things that entertain me and give me self-gratification that I value helping others on the outside of my property lines. I would rather have a house that is more than I can afford. I would rather have a car whose payment is just beyond what I can handle. I would rather have more clothes than I know what to do with. I would rather have more toys than I can play with in a lifetime. I would rather live off of 105% of what I make than actually care about what goes on in the world. I would rather just have my United Way deduction from my paycheck and give my extra 20-spot in my wallet to the church (when I have an extra 20-spot in my wallet when I check it at church on Sunday). Thank you. Just let my live in my cocoon of things and debt and I will do the minimum of generosity to the world around me, thank you, and I will feel good about myself, and pat myself on the back for having done so. Is this you and me?

God does not want us to checklist our way in this world. He does not want us to do the minimum and then wash our hands. He wants all of us. He wants us to be all-in when it comes to loving Him and therefore as a result loving people. He sees no heart in doing the minimum. He sees no love of Him in not being sacrificial when it comes to loving and caring for others more than ourselves. He sees us choosing to entertain ourselves with all the toys that we mortgage our paychecks away with and then we do and give as little as possible of our time, talents, and resources (when it does not interfere with the things that I think I deserve) but yet pat our back when we do just the very minimum. We volunteer at church functions and say we have made an impact on the community. We give $10 a week to our church but say we tithe. We give to the church when we have extra dollars but claim we help the church do what it does to impact the world around us. We volunteer when it does not interfere with Gamecock football or our kids baseball, basketball or football. We do the minimum. Is this you and me?

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the third of five reads through this morning – the way that Boaz went out of his way, even when he had already done the minimum expectation, to be generous to Ruth. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 once again 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 the characters in this book of Ruth are classic examples of good people in action. Boaz went far beyond the intent of the gleaner’s law in demonstrating his kindness and generosity. Not only did he let Ruth glean in his field, but also he told his workers to let some of the grain fall in her path on purpose. Out of his abundance he provided for the needy. How often do we go beyond the minimum requirement or accepted patterns of providing for those less fortunate than us? Boaz demonstrates to us that generosity should be a state of mind rather some checklist item of minimum behavior.

Boaz’s behavior here reminds me of what Jesus was trying to tell us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He spoke of the Ten Commandments there as if they were the minimum expected behavior not some high achievement that we should pat ourselves on the back for not violating or for upholding. Jesus said although the Commandments say that we should not murder, He said that we should not let things even get that far. If we have anger toward someone, go to them and resolve it and work it out with them where you are reconciled. Reconciliation requires forgiveness. Of adultery, the Commandment say do not do it. Jesus said that is a minimum of behavior. We should not even put ourselves in such positions. We must take even our adulterous thoughts captive and submit them to the Lord. Once we have lustful thoughts and water them and nurture them, they will grow into adultery. We therefore stand condemned when we allow such thoughts to stay in our mind even before it becomes the physical act of adultery. He goes onto to discuss other points of minimum behavior required by Mosaic law, but Jesus says that we need to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law not because we are checklist keepers but because we are lovers of God. We should do more than the minimum because we love God and as a result love to please Him. So many of us do the minimum so that we can impress people on the horizontal plane but don’t really buy into what we are doing because we are not trying to please God in the vertical plane.

Should we not love God and love others enough to come out of our mortgaged, self-contained worlds where we entertain ourselves and really make a difference for the world around us. Yes, we should be concerned with social justice as Christians. We should care enough about the lowly and downtrodden in this world to make a difference in their lives both in one-on-one situations and corporately as a part of the body of Christ. We should be concerned with the lowly because they too are created in the image of God and they do deserve the dignity of being loved by a follower of Jesus Christ. We should love them as God loves and be willing to do more than the minimum. It begins with prioritization. It begins with our finances. We should order our lives financially where we live off of less than we make. We should order our lives in this way so that we don’t have to break our backs just to keep our finances afloat. There is peace that comes with that and it also allows us to be generous financially. We should also place a priority on investing our time and our talents in those things that matter eternally. Let us pray about those things that we want to see change in our world and ask God to help us figure out where we can cut out time investment in things that do not matter eternally.

Let us pray for the eyes to see and the heart to desire to do more than the minimum. To do more than say, “I give to United Way!”

 

Amen and Amen.

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