I am reading the book Little Women to my aunt who is unable to read books any longer. She said that when she was a young girl she had read the book and seems to be enjoying our reading it together. I also read this beloved book when a young girl so it is a thrill for me to get to read it to my aunt. The story centers around the March family which comprises of four young girls in the tween to teen years and their Mother and Father. As the book begins their Father is away from home having agreed to serve in the Army as a chaplain for one year during the American Civil War. It is a harsh time for many families and none more than for the March family. Being a solid Christian Mother Mrs. March is rearing her daughters to think of others before themselves and the second chapter of the book has a heart-warming scene where the March daughters give up their traditional Christmas breakfast to a German family who have nothing to eat and no heat in their small home. I have always loved this scene because the author does a great job in showing the excitement the girls were feeling about having foods for breakfast they don’t normal get such as sausages. It was all the more important to them this Christmas to have a special breakfast because they were not exchanging presents with each other as they were too poor. Instead the daughters had thought themselves really good in each giving a present to their beloved Mother. This reminded me of something I feel has been lost in our society today and that is the value of self-sacrifice for the good of another. We have a wonderful story in the Bible involving self-sacrifice as well.
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” Ruth 2:1-7, (English Standard Version or ESV).
Naomi is a middle-aged woman whose husband and two sons are dead. She tried to send her son’s wives back to their families as she made plans to return to the hometown of her birth. One daughter-in-law did as Naomi bid but the other daughter-in-law refuses to leave Naomi’s side and her name was Ruth. Ruth remained with Naomi and traveled with her to Naomi’s hometown. I have always believed that Ruth must have loved her mother-in-law very much and was probably concerned about what would happen to her as she aged. Ruth understood how harsh life could be for Naomi especially since she had no men left in her family. Naomi chooses to attend to the needs of her mother-in-law even though she was a foreigner in the land. Ruth did what most of us would do which was to assess her situation in her new surroundings and she found that it was harvest time and saw women gleaning in the harvest fields. She asks Naomi if she can also glean and Naomi allows her to do so but cautions her to remain in only one field. Naomi knew that sometimes foreign women became targets for ill-treatment and wanted her dear Ruth to be safe. I love that part of the story as well because it shows us a little of why Ruth loved her mother-in-law so much. Let’s read more.
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” Ruth 2:8-13, (ESV).
You see Boaz had noticed what Ruth had been doing for Naomi and felt compassion on this young woman. He could see the sacrifices Ruth had willingly made to make certain that her mother-in-law was spared the hard work of gleaning. Had Ruth not come with Naomi it would have been Naomi out in the harvest fields fending for herself. This story reminds me of so many good things and it reminds me that genuine love for others does not go unnoticed in this world. Ruth genuinely loved Naomi and wanted to spare the older woman the back-breaking hard work of gleaning from the fields what the harvesters had left behind. This was the custom of helping those who had no way to survive, no family, no husband, no sons to provide for them. Boaz noticed Ruth’s hard work and realized that she was doing this hard work not for herself as much as to spare her mother-in-law from having to work. He was pleased by Ruth’s self-sacrifice and rewarded her with kindness, compassion, and favor. I don’t believe that Ruth was trying to impress Boaz in any way because she was focused on helping Naomi and that is what makes this story so beautiful to me.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:3-6, (ESV).
Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. Psalm 37:16-19, (ESV).
Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. Psalm 37:37-40, (ESV).
God notices when we are being genuinely self-sacrificing as well. I love that too. Over the years I have tried to meet the needs of those who are having a tough time. I have tried to help out struggling families so that their Christmas can be a wonderful celebration of God’s gift to us. I have bought groceries and presents for needy families. I do not tell you this to brag but to let you know that I try to live out my faith in practical ways. Seldom does anyone know that I have done these things for others because I am quiet about it all but I know that God notices and I do hope that He is pleased with my efforts. As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas season let’s keep our eyes open and our hearts listening for the opportunities to brighten someones day. It may be financial needs that we see but it may also be spending time with someone who is discouraged or ill or infirmed. It might be sending a card to someone to say thank you for being a faithful servant of Christ. It might be baking cookies and taking them to a family who is having a difficult time or it might be buying groceries and gifts for others who have nothing for their families. Whatever you do, when it is done with genuine and authentic love just know that you may inspire others to do good as well and even if no one notices you can be assured that God notices and I have no doubt He will be well pleased.