Saturday, September 1, 2012

Scripture Selection

Ruth 2:8-18

"May the LORD reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!"

—Ruth 2:12

2:8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, "Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9 Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn." 10 Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?" 11 But Boaz answered her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12 May the LORD reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!" 13 Then she said, "May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, even though I am not one of your servants."

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine." So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, "Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her."

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied.


The practice of gleaning acknowledges that most of us have more than we need. The owners didn't miss what might have been left on the edges, but to those in need, it was life-saving and life-giving. Making sure that everyone has what they need means giving out of our abundance. Often there are simple ways we can set aside a little here or there and hardly miss it. God called Abraham and chose his descendants for a particular blessing so that all people would be blessed. Blessing comes with a responsibility, and that means giving what we have when we recognize how richly blessed we are.

The provision for gleaning certainly includes Ruth, who gleans after Boaz's hired workers. Boaz's managers identify Ruth as "the Moabite who came back with Naomi." They tell Boaz that she has been working without rest since early morning. Gleaning in the fields could be dangerous work— especially for a vulnerable, poor, foreign widow working in the midst of many hired men. Boaz provides protection for Ruth and orders his men not to bother her. He gives her food and drink and tells his men to pull out handfuls of grain for Ruth to pick up, making her work easier.

Throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy, laws and commandments address the needs of widows, children, the poor, and the oppressed. The rule of gleaning was one such law. Even in the small communities of Israel, God gave regulations for how to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. More than a system of charity, the regulations empowered the needy to seek security for themselves, rather than relying on goodwill donations. The office of deacon was established in the early Christian church as a direct response to a breakdown in distribution of food to the widows. In both cases, the people of God recognized their call to care for the oppressed, and to carry it out systemic solutions were put in place to address material needs.

It is not enough for us to donate money, clothing, food, and time. We also must learn more about what the specific needs are. We must advocate for systemic change and solutions to problems that are often cyclical. And lest we judge those who are in need of help, we must realize that we could one day be the person in need. The provisions for care were given in the Torah with frequent reminders to the Israelites that they, too, had been oppressed, enslaved, poor, and vulnerable, but that God had delivered them.

Ruth and Naomi lived in a society that relied on each year's harvest of crops for survival. Widows without fathers or sons to protect them, such as Ruth and Naomi, were the most vulnerable of all vulnerable populations. Many people in our society have no choice but to live on what is left over after others have taken what they need. Who are the vulnerable among us today?

Outcasts are the most exploited, including immigrants and convicted felons.  When we think about immigration laws, do we see the face of Christ in the eyes of the immigrant? Ruth, a foreigner, was a direct ancestor of Jesus. God's mission of sending the Son into the world is accomplished through a Moabite widow.

In the United States, convicted felons face an uphill battle once they are released from prison. Few jobs are available to them, especially if they do not have a GED. Few companies will take on someone convicted of a felony. They often have little hope and few options when it comes to earning a living wage in society. It's little wonder why felons with drug-dealing convictions return to their old ways. They return to their old neighborhoods. Where else could they afford to live? And how else can they make money?


What are the unmet needs of your community? If you aren't sure, where might you find the answer?

In what ways has your church responded to the needs of others in the past?  In the present? Are there windows of opportunity for new missions in the near future?

What distinguishes Christian faith in action from community service?


God, you alone are our strength and refuge. You are our present help in times of trouble, and yet too often, when the tables are turned, we neglect those who need to feel your ministries of care. We pray that you would open our hearts and empower us to be your ministers in this world, to provide refuge under our wings, just as you protect us in the refuge of your wings. We ask this all in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Compiled from The Present Word and Congregational Ministries Publishing is not liable for for the content of this Bible Study and Blog.

From The Present Word © 2011 Congregational Ministries Publishing. Used by permission.