Volume. XXX, No. 12
Sunday, 20 September 2015

Work Ethics of Ruth and Boaz

Most of what we know about the book of Ruth is the faithfulness of Ruth to the God of Israel and to her mother-in-law, Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17). It is a love story between Ruth and Boaz who were the great-grandparents of King David.  Today I want to write about the work ethics of both Ruth and Boaz.

The story of Ruth and Naomi happened during the time of the Judges (Ruth1:1). This was during a time of spiritual decline (Judges 21:25) with periods of revival. The land in which Israel had settled was in the midst of a famine, so Elimelech brought his family to Moab. During their sojourn there, his sons each married a Moabitess, and eventually, Elimelech and both his sons died. Somehow, Naomi heard that the Lord was providing food for His people, and decided to return to her homeland. Ruth determined to go with her and they both returned to the land of Judah.

Naomi returned to Bethlehem, where Elimelech was from, at the beginning of the barley harvest. She was apparently remembered (Ruth 1:19). But how would they survive? They were widows and usually it was the men in that society who provided for the family.

Ruth’s willingness, fortitude and humility
In the beginning, even before the fall, God gave man the duty of work (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, we are reminded that we are to work for our food. The phrase “would not work” indicates the choice NOT to work, so Paul was not applying this to those who had no choice. This applies to those who refuse to work.  

It is interesting to note that Ruth did not wait at home for a kinsman redeemer to rescue them. She did not wallow in self-pity or eat the fruit of idleness but was willing to work to feed both herself and her mother-in-law, who encouraged her. Even though she faced the unknown, she was very willing to go out to gather food. Ruth 2:2 tells us (1) She did not know where she was going. (2) She did not know if she would be able to find a field to glean in. (3) She did not know if she would be able to gather enough to feed both her mother-in-law and herself.

She obviously had the physical strength to do the work and thus, we learn we ought to use our ability to work; remembering Who it is that has given us this ability (Acts 17:28). Daniel 4:30-36 shows us that King Nebuchadnezzar learnt the hard way that it is God who gives the ability to gain wealth. In Proverbs 6:6-8, God tells us to learn from the ants who work hard to gather food and sustain their lives. Prov. 30:25, “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.” Even the ants know they have to do what needs to be done.

Ruth had fortitude and courage to face the unknown. First days at work or school are usually like this! And even day by day, we may face the unknown at our workplace or in life situations. May the Lord grant us the same resilience as Ruth to face each day, knowing that He is indeed merciful and compassionate. “It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)  

The reapers would know that only the poor would be following them, hoping to gather enough for their family (Leviticus 19:9-10). Let Ruth also be remembered for her humility. Some people may think it embarrassing or beneath them to glean after the reapers. It did not seem that Ruth said it grudgingly or arrogantly, but in sweet humility, that she hoped to glean after one in ‘whose sight I shall find grace’ (Ruth 2:2). Let us not allow pride to get in the way of doing our work cheerfully, willingly and in humility.

Working with Industry, Diligence and Endurance
Ruth may not have been used to this kind of work but she certainly put her back into it. She worked through the day,  even to the evening, taking only a short break to rest (Ruth 2:7,17). The Proverbs are full of admonishing against laziness and commendations for hard work (Prov. 18:9, 19:5).  Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:22 reminds us to take pride and be joyful in our work: “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Her hard work did not go unnoticed. Boaz’s servant reported her diligence to him (Ruth 2:7). In fact, it was known to Boaz all that Ruth had done for Naomi, as well as her faith in God (Ruth 2:11-12). We all have a sphere of influence: praise be to the Lord if we are recognised to be faithful and industrious workers. It is one of the golden opportunities to be a good testimony for our God. Whatever we find for our hands to do, let us do it wholeheartedly and with all our might, for there comes a day when we can no longer do it: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Eccl. 9:10)

After working hard all day, Ruth threshed the barley and was able to gather an ephah (various commentators have given different measurements, but from what I gather, it is about 22-35 litres) of grain to take home for herself and Naomi.

We see Ruth truly working with all her heart and might, willingly, heartily…what an example for us. Regardless of what work we are called to do, whether it be studies, house chores, manual labour, volunteer work etc., let us do it all for the Lord (Col. 3:22-24).

Boaz’s Treatment of his employees
Boaz was a near relative of Naomi’s late husband, and a wealthy landowner. He had many workers and servants under him. Observe how they treat him and how he treats them.

Ruth 2:4 - Though Boaz was the employer, he greeted his workers with a blessing, which they returned. This is an expression of their mutual respect and courtesy toward each other. People should be treated with respect, and not with threatening and such (Eph. 6:9), even though they may work for us. They are still human beings, made in the image of God and we too have a Master in heaven to answer to (Col. 4:1).

When Boaz hears of the Moabitish woman who was Naomi’s daughter-in-law gleaning in the field, he is very kind and gracious to her.  He does not discriminate against her because she is a Moabite. He knows that she is in dire straits and is working to provide food for both herself and her mother-in-law.

Boaz’s graciousness
As an exemplary employer, we see that he prevents sexual harassment at work and provides sustenance for those working in his field (Ruth 2: 9, 14)
Though he is a wealthy landowner, he is gracious to those in need. He calls for the reapers to purposely leave handfuls of grain for her (Ruth 2:16) and also tells her to continue to glean on his land throughout the barley and wheat harvest (Ruth 2:8, 9, 23).
Remember that it is the Lord who gives us wealth and we are to be good stewards of what He has given us (Deut. 8:18, 1 Peter 4:9-10). It is a good lesson to learn from Boaz to be generous, and hospitable; we might be able to ease another’s burden or cheer their hearts.

Working hard with humility
In Ruth 3:2, we see that Boaz is also working together with his employees. Some people think that if they were wealthy, they wouldn’t need to work hard. Work is given to us by God and fits His plan and purpose. Boaz was also setting a great example for his employees. He was serving God in working hard and inspiring respect in his workers.

Work is certainly a way to earn money to provide for household and family (1 Tim. 5:8, Prov. 19:15) but Prov. 18:9 also tells us that an idle person is a great waster. So let us include the things that are given to us to do, and not just our jobs. Eccl. 5:12 also tells us the “sleep of a labouring man is sweet,” having spent his time productively and wisely.

Let us learn from the sins of Sodom: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49). Contrast that with what we see in Boaz, who, though the landowner, was working hard with his employees and being gracious to Ruth and to his reapers.

This was an interesting study of working life during the time of Ruth and Boaz. We know it was during a difficult time for the Israelites who were  coming out of a famine and in the middle of spiritual deterioration. Yet we have two good examples in the midst of all this, who glorified God in their undertakings. May the Lord teach us well.

Deaconess Joyce Gong

More Lively Hope



Kitchen Roster - Today: Group A. Next Lord’s Day: Group B.
*Today’s Fellowship Lunch is provided by Bro Paul & Sis Grace Chung & family.

*Special thanks to Bro Kang Fun & Sis Adeline Tan for last week’s fellowship lunch.

*Please note, new postal address for our church for all mails/letters is PO Box 398, Fullarton, SA 5063.

*Next Lord’s Day Worship Service will be at Bible College of SA, 176 Wattle Street, Malvern, SA 5061.

*Until further notice, location of church office, Bible studies & fellowship activities will be at the Stone Mansion.

*Adult & Junior RPGs for Oct-Dec quarter available on the literature table. Donation $1.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: For those arriving safely at their destinations.

Church activities, in the past week.

Visitors & new worshippers.

God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

God’s provision - temporary place for worship.

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; Rev George van Buuren (Holland) & others in affliction.

iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne & Missions work in Malaysia.

House of Hope, Cebu - Pastor Roel M Allocod, staff & volunteers; treatment & salvation of drug addicts; Provision of car & sufficient funds for ministry.

New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.

Covenant BPC (Perth) - purchasing of church property.

Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.

Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.

Journey mercies: those who are travelling.

Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.

Persecuted believers in Islamic countries.

God’s guidance: purchase of new church property.

Australia: God’s wisdom for our political leaders. People to repent and turn to God.

God’s guidance & provision of temporary office space & fellowship activities while looking for a permanent location for our church.

Sparks4Christ & YAF Retreat speaker, Rev Hyun Choi; organisers & participants.



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