In the second chapter of the Book of Ruth, we see the two widows, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, after they’ve traveled from Moab to Bethlehem. Ruth is anxious to find ways to help out, so she asked Naomi if she could go out into the barley and wheat fields to pick up what was left behind by the harvesters. Long before Ruth and Naomi were born, the Lord had put provisions in the law to take care of people just like them. God had charged the Israelites to be messy harvesters, instructing them to drop plenty of good stuff so that the poor and the widows could gather the left-overs, removing the stigma of begging for food and replacing it with the opportunity to work. (God always seems to be reminding us to be generous.)
Without realizing who the field belonged to (although God, our generous and gracious Father, knew all along), Ruth went to the field that was owned by a man named Boaz. He was a good man and a relative of Naomi’s dead husband. So Ruth walked along, stooping down to grab the stalks just like the other women who worked for Boaz. She nervously watched their movements and stayed near them, trying to blend in.
Well, Boaz came out to the fields to check the progress of his harvesters and noticed a woman he’d never seen before. He asked one of his servants who the woman was. You can imagine the servant leaning toward his boss to deliver the information in a gossipy whisper reserved for sharing a tidbit of tasty, yet tragic news: “Surely you’ve heard of Ruth. She’s that woman from Moab whose husband died. Tsk…tsk…tsk. Isn’t that sad?”
Boaz was moved by Ruth’s kindness to her mother-in-law. He spoke to her and said that Ruth should visit his fields exclusively so that she’d be protected. Boaz would also make sure that she’d have access to the water his servants drank whenever she got thirsty. In fact, he even invited her to take a break and sit down for lunch with him and his servants right then and there.
Ruth couldn’t believe her ears. This was the first good thing that had happen to her in so long. Boaz, a man of honor and integrity had not only noticed her—a foreigner and a poor widow—but he was also planning to look out for her. Just when she was beginning to think that her luck would never turn around, here she was with a belly full of lunch and a whopping 26 quarts of barley to bring home to Naomi. For the first time in a long time, Ruth felt useful and noticed.
And it all came from kindness—kindness from her mother-in-law Naomi and kindness from Boaz. From these acts of benevolence and generosity, she got fed, got work and got to rest. Never underestimate the power of kindness.