“And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.” (Rth 2:7 NAS77)
Ruth was a “stranger” in the community, but God had provided for her. In the Mosaic law, poverty was addressed and provision made for the widow, orphan and stranger. The law spoke about not gleaning the fields or orchards, not harvesting to the edges, allowing fields to lay “fallow” (preparing the field, but not planting to allow it a “rest” – during this time, there was always wild production from seeds that had fallen and sprouted naturally) as provision for this need within the community.
Unfortunately, greed often led to ignoring these principles. That was apparent in the admonition from both Boaz and Naomi to stay in his fields where she would be protected. Not everyone felt this way. Many land owners were not so observant.
But, even in that provisions, Ruth had responsibility. She went, she asked, she gleaned. The context seems to imply that she was somehow remarkable in her efforts. She started early. She worked hard. She acted with respect. She didn’t take a lot of breaks or complain. The foreman noticed. Boaz noticed. There was something different in Ruth.
I spend a lot of time with addicts and homeless folk – usually at the jail. They all talk about living a different life, but few of them actually do anything to change. I could probably write a dozen posts on the many reasons why they are “trapped”. They are victims of abuse, their past, addictions, oppression, discrimination, societal indifference, lack of resources, lack of education, low self-worth, mental disorder, family dysfunction, etc.
But, every now and then, maybe once or twice a year, I run into someone who is really trying. They walk miles and miles to go to AA/NA meetings or school or both. They get to their job by bicycle, bus or foot no matter what the weather. They do without things others view as necessities simply because they can’t afford it. They learn. They serve. They put their feet on the ground every morning and do something no matter how they feel. They practice integrity even when it costs them. Even in jail, they work to change who they are and how they see things.
These are the folks worth fighting for and investing in. They are rare and special. Not because they are gifted, blessed, fated, genetically superior or just plain lucky, but because they believe. They believe that there is something different out there than what they have experienced in the past. They believe that they have value to contribute to this world. They believe that they have power to change their circumstances. They believe that there is a power greater than themselves that believes in them. And they try.
Ruth was rare and special.
Just like us.
I under stand the whole gleaning process and such to provide for those who have the need to live off others because of their difficulties in their lives. Believe me I do because but for the Grace of God and help from some generous people there go I. Some businesses are so oppressed by the government, bad mgmt decisions, employee and customer theft, natural disasters and many more ways that we don’t have room to mention them all here. Sometimes they need to use every resource to just to stay in business to provide for the employees they do have and to pay all the taxes and fees asked of them. You said in the Word it is called greed as to what the business owners were doing or have done but owners face incredible odds against success. Is it worth putting the lives of those who who in Jeopardy? Just as we are instructed to give freely as a choice so shouldn’t the business owners have the same choice? I see no problem with people asking for help but for them to expect it to be given them is in my mind just a wrong way to think. Ruth worked “hard” for what she got. We don’t know the circumstances around everyone and why they can’t work for a living. But I see people working hard to live off the sweat of others mostly I feel because they understand human nature and that we are giving individuals so they take and do not give back. They do not pay taxes to help others. This is the side many do not see and can not see because we are so busy. Jesus took the time to slow down and get personal with people one on one and help them. He is God and we fall far short of what He can do for them. We can however help our families, our extended families in the Church Body and others that come in contact with us but it can also become overwhelming with all that we see around us. I pray that God will meet all our needs but I say work like it depends on you. Work and save on a regular basis for a rainy day my Mom told me. That became my 10 [10-20-70] rule. 10% Tithe, then divide up the rest, 10% pay yourself (for retirement), 20% set aside money to invest for growth and 70% to live on.
Thank you for blogging real time stuff. God bless us all, Ed
Your 10[10-20-70] rule is a perfect example of not harvesting to the edges of the field.
I understand that the application of these agrarian concepts is difficult in our modern world. I’m not sure what the equivalent is, but the principle remains. It’s never about a social welfare system that takes from workers and gives to non-workers. It’s about trusting God for provision not only for ourselves, but for the people He brings in our lives.
Yes, government intrusion makes it difficult at times. In fact, many times it seems that the very things our government agencies advance as solutions create problems that are just as damaging as the original. An example I encounter frequently is EBT card abuse. Pretty much any indigent person can get $200 in food stamps. On the street, it is commonly understood that you can sell your card for 50% pretty easily. A couple of times, I’ve been asked by guys in jail to relay the location of their card to someone who could get a hundred bucks for them and post bail. Of the street drug users I know, 100% admit that their food stamp money goes for drugs. One guy I know who gets $800 in disability funds and can manage to drink it in 2 weeks. Now, EBT and SSID are important and needed programs, but, abuse is rampant.
That’s why differentiating between a Ruth and others matters. Just a few minutes ago, I got off the phone with an addict that wanted me to seek an ex parte order from a judge to have her taken to detox. This will be the 3rd time that I know about. I said, “no”. As a result, there is a pretty good chance I will never know what happened with her. Not to mention, in her mind, I am now to blame for everything she swallows, injects, pawns, etc., because I wouldn’t help her. However, this action has never helped her in the past. Until she is willing to go sit on the steps of the rehab until they take her, no matter how difficult or inconvenient that is, she probably isn’t ready. Until she is ready to rise early in the morning and glean late in the day, anything we give her will probably not make a significant difference.
Knowing when not giving is more loving is difficult.
I thank God that He can make up the difference when I fail.