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Scripture Reference: Ruth 3-4
Our Faith may Be Personal, but it Is Never Private
Lessons from the Book of Ruth on the Public Life of the Disciple
The book of Ruth has several layers. Ruth is the center of the story, partly because she is the “damsel in distress,” but also because the book is somewhat subversive in nature. One subversive part is the subtext of a foreigner embraced by Hebrew society; and not just any foreigner--Ruth was a Moabite, and
Israel and had a history. Other layers of the story are about propriety and risk-taking, inclusion of immigrants, the huge disadvantage of being a woman without husband or son in that time and culture and the obligation of the culture to protect these women. Moab
One of the most instructional layers of the Book of Ruth is the narrative about Boaz, the “kinsman redeemer” for Naomi’s family. The record presents him as an idealized embodiment of a law-keeping Jewish man. Yet his actions tell us of a man who acted “beyond the Law” toward Ruth and Naomi. “Beyond the Law” is not exactly what we would say in twenty-first century English. We would say, “He followed the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.”
We see Boaz in action throughout the book, but most powerfully in chapter four.
- He was above-board in his public dealings, had no hidden agendas, displayed no fake friendship to get what he wanted.
- He did not use people for his own ends.
- He honored the right and legal way to solve a problem.
- He was godly in being his submission to God’s law (most notably the law of Levirate marriage)
Moreover, Boaz was godly by being a man of integrity in his business life. He kept his hired hands from harassing the vulnerable immigrant Ruth (a lesson for today in both our immigration debate and the dreadfulness of human trafficking). He showed more generosity in allowing gleaning from his fields than the law required (he wasn’t stingy and legalistic). He personally knew his workers. They weren’t just nameless muscle for his farm.
Boaz understood God’s expectations of him. He understood that he was a steward of the place God had placed him in life, and that he must behave responsibly, openly and authentically.
So what does this mean for us? Well, obviously Boaz is a model.
We can sum up Boaz’ modus operandi in the following life principle. Our faith is personal, but it is not private. Everything we do before others makes a statement about who we are, what we value, and how we view God and our relationship with him.
How might the example of Boaz look in our life?
--Absolute honesty and integrity
--Seeking God’s way in practical decisions in life
--Takes care of those who are under his supervision
So if my faith is personal, but not private, what will those around me in the world learn about Jesus from me? And what will they learn about how seriously I follow him as a disciple?
Will they see hypocrisy? Or a man or woman of honor?
The most honorable man who ever lived was Jesus Christ. Not just because he was God in flesh, but also because he walked the walk. He lived with absolute integrity and honor. His yes was yes, and his no was no. What the disciples saw in Jesus publicly is what they saw in him privately.
May I have the integrity of Jesus as my model for life. And if Jesus seems too intimidating, then let’s imitate Boaz. J
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD . . . --Psalm 1:1-2a ESV