This time in our Ruth series, we’re focusing on the person of Boaz – a man who stands out in the Bible for his compassion and generosity. You can read the first blog on Ruth here for a recap of the story.
The book of Ruth reminds us of the importance of community when circumstances drastically change and we face the hard times. Whatever Boaz may have gone through in the time of famine, he was doing well as a landowner when we meet him in the Bible, despite the frequent wars and political upheaval of the time.
The pandemic has left some of us in a strangely better financial position than before: people who have been able to keep jobs but have far less expenses. Covid-19 has drawn even bigger gaps between those who are comfortable and those who are struggling and it can be overwhelming to see so much need around us.
What can we learn from Boaz’s generosity in a time of hardship for many?
He treats those worse off than him with honour
It can sometimes feel embarrassing when you’re aware of just how much more you have than someone else. But Boaz doesn’t seem to have this trouble. He shows genuine admiration for Ruth (2:11), speaks to his workers with respect and greets them with prayer (2:4).
The Old Testament Jews viewed themselves as one family – the family of Abraham, and although the law stated that outsiders should be treated well, attitudes were often hostile towards them. Ruth was a foreigner from Moab, but when Boaz first meets her, he knows her faithfulness and calls her ‘my daughter’. He shows the same kindness and love that Jesus taught when he was challenged about who qualified as a ‘neighbour’.
Like Jesus, Boaz seems to have a heart for the poor and the outsider. It was a very difficult time to be a woman and foreign female captives from war could even be forcibly taken as wives. Boaz doesn’t take advantage of Ruth but instead goes out of his way to ensure her protection, expecting nothing in return.
Perhaps Boaz is able to give so much without embarrassment because he sees others as equals and himself as merely a steward of what he has.
He cares for the details as well as the big picture
Boaz could have satisfied himself in being generous just by allowing Ruth to glean in the field, but he showed genuine care through noticing the details of her needs.
Ruth may have felt that as a gleaner she didn’t deserve to drink the water that the workers had laboured to bring to the field for refreshment. She might have thought that she should move on to another man’s field so as not to overstay her welcome. But Boaz anticipates all these things and invites her to take freely.
He doesn’t throw money at the problem and delegate someone else to deal with Ruth. He takes a personal involvement in her wellbeing, just like God cares about all the details of our lives. Sometimes it’s the smaller kindnesses that really show another person we care for them.
He sees giving itself as a gift
Boaz just keeps on giving. He seems to find delight in giving even more than is necessary. When he gave Ruth lunch, she ‘had some left over’ (2:14) which she in turn gives to Naomi. He promises to marry Ruth but nothing is guaranteed until he sorts out the matter with the other kinsman. But even knowing they may not marry, he still gives Ruth a huge portion of barley to take home to Naomi.
Boaz received blessing in return: a wife who was characterised by her loyalty and companionship and a son who became part of the genealogy of Jesus. But he doesn’t give to get, he gives cheerfully as an act of worship.
When giving is our joy, like Boaz our lives are enriched by it. We don’t worry about losing out when our happiness isn’t found in what we have.
He values godliness over prosperity
Boaz promises to redeem Ruth, but he wants to do things the honourable way. He knows that there’s another relative who should be consulted first. When asked, this man is willing to buy the land from Naomi, but changes his mind when he realises that he would have to marry Ruth too. This kinsman says it would ‘endanger [his] own estate’ (4:6). Possibly he worried that in marrying Ruth and producing an heir for Naomi’s deceased husband’s line, he’d be diminishing his own name and property. This man was only willing to do what would be in his own interest.
But Boaz saw the beauty of Ruth’s faithfulness. Throughout the book he shows that he cares about people over profits and it’s his holiness that brings him happiness.
The way we act and the way we give in difficult times sets us apart as Christians. Through Boaz’s humble and continual giving, we see his place in God’s plan.