Gleaners would have to work very hard from morning to evening if they wanted to gather enough grain to sustain themselves and their families for the day. They lived day by day, and hand to mouth. Often, they gathered very little because unscrupulous land owners hindered access to their fields or harvested every bit of grain, even that which had fallen on the ground, leaving nothing for the destitute (Leviticus 19:9–10).
To provide for Naomi, Ruth diligently gleans in Boaz’s field from morning till evening. Her diligence has already caught the attention of Boaz’s foreman, who says, “She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter” (Ruth 2:7).
That evening, Ruth returns home with “an ephah”—about 13 kilograms (2:17)—of barley grain, enough to last several weeks. According to one Bible commentator, this was the equivalent of at least half a month’s wages.18 This large amount of barley is the result of Ruth’s hard work. But it also means that Boaz’s servants have helped her by obeying his instructions to deliberately leave some grain stalks for her (2:16). At mealtime, Boaz invites her to eat from his table (2:14), giving her such a large amount of food that “what she had left over after she had eaten enough” could be shared with Naomi (2:18). Ruth’s abundance of food is the result of Boaz’s kindness and grace.
Kindness begets kindness. Grace given is grace multiplied (James 4:6). Ruth showed undeserved kindness towards Naomi. Commending Ruth’s benevolence towards her mother-in-law, Boaz had prayed, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done”, and assured her that she would be “richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge” (Ruth 2:12). Now, Boaz becomes the answer to his own prayer. Both Ruth and Boaz demonstrate what “the Scriptures say, ‘They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever’” (2 Corinthians 9:9 NLT). Commending Boaz’s kindness to Ruth and to her, Naomi now invokes a blessing, “Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” (Ruth 2:19).
Assured that Ruth has now come under the care and protection of Boaz, Naomi instructs her to stay in Boaz’s fields “to glean until the barley and wheat harvests [are] finished” (2:23). This is the storyteller’s way of showing us that for the next three to four months or so, Boaz and Ruth will spend many moments together, enabling them to grow in respect and affection for each other.
God wants us to be generous when it comes to helping the poor (see Deuteronomy 15:11). Do you consider yourself a generous person? Why or why not?
Are there poor people in your community? To whom is God is leading you to take notice of? How can you show kindness to them?