As God reveals his greatness and plans in the Bible, Ruth is a book about kindness. It proclaims God’s kindness and how it works out through his people to others. The true story of God’s glory involves kindness at its core. How much we need to hear about kindness in our day! Sadly, our time is marked by selfishness. I do not think that I need to prove that to you, since every day we experience the cruelty of selfishness to some degree. How often we grieve about how people destroy their own lives and the lives of those around them by their selfishness. However, the living God calls us to imitate him in goodness, kindness and generosity. The “atmosphere” conveyed by those who follow Jesus should have the sweet fragrance of kindness, the Lord’s kindness. Others ought to sense this when with us.
Many parts of this section illustrate Christ’s kindness toward those who believe in him. Be alert for these illustrations.
Kindness produces acceptance of others (3:10-13). I’m not speaking of toleration, which is a poor substitute for kindness, reaching even into Christian circles. To speak pleasant words to someone’s face as they are welcomed to your church meeting turns into evil when the greeter rolls their eyes about that person when they have left and makes that person become a subject of laughter. “Did you see that visitor? They sure were weird.” That is toleration and not kindness.
Acceptance in turn produces blessing, meaning prayer for God’s kindness. Since Boaz was a godly man, he brought the Lord into the situation. To live godly means to live consciously in God’s presence. Before Boaz did anything, he prayed for God’s blessing on Ruth. A great goal of Christ’s work is to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). As we live in Christ in this world, we ought to pursue our Lord’s goals, too. This will mean bringing God into situations. Since people like to suppress the knowledge of God (Romans 1:18-19), this can be a difficult task. As such, it requires wisdom and skill gained through Christian experience. New followers of Jesus are filled with zeal, but they lack wisdom and skill, and so they get too pushy and turn people off. To make others more hostile is not the goal. For this reason, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom in this matter. “Lord, teach me how to do this.”
Boaz commended Ruth for her kindness. He had noticed this earlier about Ruth (2:11-12), but now he sensed a greater kindness in the proposal she had just made (3:9). But what is kindness? Kindness is a very rich word that conveys the idea of love, kindness, compassion and loyalty combined. It is an active word, reaching out to help. Boaz especially thought of her willingness to marry him. She wasn’t after someone her age and peer group. (From the way he talked with her, he was clearly much older, though their ages are not given.) It is very natural to wish to marry someone your age, so that you have the same way of looking at things, and the same energy level to do stuff together. But Ruth wasn’t after that. She also wasn’t after someone with money (“whether rich”), or after someone for some kind of romantic love (“or poor”). She was doing it for kindness—for family love and loyalty. Ruth wasn’t under obligation to marry to provide her deceased husband with an heir, but she took that obligation upon herself. Ruth thought of others, thinking with the larger community in mind. Kindness motivated her. Sadly, our people have become far too individualistic. We must begin to think much more about “we” than about “me”. Since in Christ we are members of God’s family, we must think about the local gathering or assembly of Christ’s people more than we have. Church is not a place that you go to, but it is people with whom you share God’s love and kindness. Remember our Lord’s example. When Christ died for us, he wasn’t thinking about his needs, but about the Father’s glory and our good. His attitude should transform ours. His mission must become ours.
Grace and peace, David