Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”
And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”
Ruth 2:5-6 (NLT)
Part of the story behind the story in today’s chapter is an ancient practice of charity. In the days before a central government and welfare, the society itself had to find a way to provide for the poor. In keeping with God’s laws, Farmers would leave part of their crop unharvested, or would allow the poor to follow behind the harvesters and pick up grain that was missed. Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, both being widows, had no choice but to depend on this charity. Ruth followed behind the harvesters Boaz sent into the fields and gathered the scraps they left behind.
I am largely of Dutch heritage, and I sometimes think that “the Protestant work ethic” is knit into my DNA. There is honor in working hard. If you work hard as though God is your employer, you will be blessed. That’s what I’ve been taught since I was young along with being reminded of another simple teaching from God’s Message: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
I find it interesting at how this simple principle was put into practice in ancient days. There was no entitlement. Ruth and Naomi had a recourse to get food, but it required labor and Ruth was working hard to provide for herself and her mother-in-law not realizing that she was about to be blessed in unexpected ways.