8: Creating opportunities for work (Ruth 2:17–19)

Scripture ReadingRuth 2:17-19

The most important way God overcomes barriers to our fruitfulness is through the actions of other people. We see this in the Book of Ruth. The action of the Book of Ruth centers around gleaning, which was one of the most important elements of the Law for the protection of poor and vulnerable people.

Foreigners, widows, and orphans in Israel typically did not receive an inheritance of land, so they were vulnerable to poverty and abuse. The gleaning law gave them the opportunity to provide for themselves. Access to gleaning was to be provided free of charge by every landowner. Gleaning provided an opportunity for productive work for those who otherwise would have to depend on begging, slavery, prostitution or other forms of degradation. Gleaners maintained skills, self-respect, physical conditioning and work habits.

In the case of Boaz, Ruth and Naomi, the laws worked as intended. The process preserved Ruth’s dignity, made use of her skills and abilities, freed her and Naomi from long-term dependency, and made them less vulnerable to exploitation. But Boaz was inspired to go significantly beyond what the law required. The gleaning laws merely required landowners to leave produce. This generally gave the poor and vulnerable difficult, dangerous, uncomfortable work, such as harvesting grain at the weedy edges of fields or high up in olive trees; the produce was usually of inferior quality. But Boaz told his workers to be actively generous. Furthermore, he insisted that Ruth glean in his fields and attach herself to his workers.

In a world in which every nation, every society, has people in need of opportunities for work, how can Christians emulate Boaz? What might God be leading each of us to do to bring his blessing of fruitfulness to other workers and would-be workers?

Prayer: Lord, I want to serve you and others through my work. Show me how I can be fruitful and empower others to be fruitful in their work as well. Amen.

For Further Exploration: Read God Calls People to Provide Opportunities for the Poor to Work Productively (Ruth 2:17-23) from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary.

Author: Theology of Work Project

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