Scholars note that the book of Ruth is notoriously difficult to translate into English in ways that capture the layers of symbolism and meaning. Not hard to translate, however, is Naomi and Ruth’s need to find security and well-being. Both are widows with no male heirs, which is the biblical equivalent of an unarmed protagonist running from a dragon along the edge of a precipice. Though in preceding verses Ruth and Naomi have received kindness from Boaz and have been able to glean some grain, their situation remains desperate.
The Hebrew word for widow suggests someone who is unable to speak, unable to advocate on her own behalf. Rather than stay silent, however, Naomi speaks an all-too-human truth: “We need security if we’re going to be well.” Naomi and Ruth may not be able to lobby publicly in the courts of justice, but perhaps they can more subtly persuade Boaz, their kinsman, to take responsibility.
Naomi’s words are a reminder that we all long for security and well-being and that we are often driven to great lengths to achieve them. What a universal and human experience! We need look no further than to store shelves emptied of bread, milk, and toilet paper in times of disaster to see evidence of our shared desire for protection and provision in times of anxiety and need.
Recognizing our common desire for well-being and security is also an opportunity to deepen our empathy and love for others. When refugees from other shores seek escape from war, or when someone down on their luck asks for spare change, we can choose to see their hopes and fears as something with which we can identify. Being able to acknowledge the commonality we share with others—such as our common need for safety and well-being—helps us to respond with compassion and recognition rather than fear or contempt.
Jesus, open our hearts so that we can see ourselves—and you—in our neighbors. Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures, children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The writer of Hebrews builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. Who are the people in your community who lack the basic provisions for a safe and healthy life? How do you try to help meet their needs?
Read Psalm 127. In what ways do you invite God to be part of your work?
Read Hebrews 9:24-28. When have you eagerly waited for something? How did that feel?
Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you practice generosity in the way you allocate your resources and time?
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