Meditations in Ruth : 11. A Good Worker
Ruth 2:6,7 The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, `Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
Boaz has enquired of Ruth and the foreman tells him she is the Moabitess who came back with Naomi and then goes on to recount how she approached him earlier in the day and asked to be allowed to glean behind the harvesters. Moreover she went out into the field earlier in the morning and apart from a short rest period (possibly noon) she has worked solidly until now. The implication is that she is a good worker.
With this information, Boaz goes out into the field and across to where Ruth was: “So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” (v.8,9) So let’s look at what we find in these verses.
He approaches her in a very fatherly way – “My daughter” – and speaks words of reassurance. Carry on working along with my servant girls while they are bundling the cut crop and glean as you can. That’s a nice start, simple encouragement, but he goes further: “I have told the men not to touch you.” That is added security and protection from the boss! But he hasn’t finished: “And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” That is additional caring provision; feel at home here and use the resources that we have.
Now why should Boaz respond like this? I suspect there are three reasons. First, he is a good man who is also caring and so we find care, compassion and sensitivity to Ruth in these verses. Second, having heard that she is with a relative of his, he feels a certain measure of responsibility under the Law to care for her in this manner. The third reason is all to do with Ruth herself: she has won his approval by her diligent and hard work, largely on behalf of Naomi, as she creates provision for them both by working in this field.
That latter thing, I think we often take for granted, but it wins hearts and we see it in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament after he has been sold into slavery: “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.” (Gen 39:2-4) Now although this emphasises the Lord being with Joseph, Joseph wouldn’t have had ‘success’ unless he had worked hard and wisely. We find the same thing when Joseph was unfairly put in prison: “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (Gen 39:20-23) Joseph was not only a good worker, but he was also trustworthy and this won over those over him, both in Potiphar’s house and then in prison. He may have started off a spoilt brat but adversity worked grace in him and that grace was seen in his ability to apply himself to his work.
We can take this for granted but often Christians are not good examples of diligent and trustworthy workers. Listen to how Paul taught his two younger workers: “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity,” (1 Tim 4:12) and “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7,8) Ruth won approval about how she cared for Naomi and her hard work. Paul taught Timothy and Titus to similarly be examples to others. When Jesus taught, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” (Mt 5:16) that indicates a life that speaks to those around it by the things it does. We can move people’s hearts by being people of grace and goodness and who are examples to others by our diligence, our integrity, our hardworking willingness to be there for others. Ruth moved the heart of Boaz; whose heart will I move today?