Economic opportunities for the poor and vulnerable

Economic opportunities for the poor and vulnerable March 5, 2014

Reflections on RUTH 2:17-23

In the Book of Ruth, we see that Boaz was inspired to go significantly beyond what the law required in providing for the poor and vulnerable. Gleaning laws merely required landowners to leave some produce in the fields for foreigners, orphans and widows to glean. This generally meant the poor and vulnerable had difficult, dangerous, uncomfortable work, such as harvesting grain at the weedy edges of fields or high up in olive trees. The produce they obtained this way was usually of inferior quality, such as grapes and olives that had fallen to the ground or had not fully ripened. But Boaz tells his workers to be actively generous. They were to remove first-quality grain from the stalks they had cut, and leave them lying on top of the stubble so Ruth would need merely to pick them up. Boaz’s concern was not to minimally fulfill a regulation, but to genuinely provide for Ruth and her family.

Furthermore, he insisted that she glean in his fields (keeping what she harvested for herself and Naomi, of course) and attach herself to his workers. He not only gave her access to his fields, he effectively made her one of his hired hands, even to the point of making sure she received a pro-rata share of the harvest (Ruth 2:16).

How, indeed, do these questions apply to us? Is each of us a person of means, even if we are not rich like Boaz? Do middle-class people have the means and the responsibility to provide opportunities for poor people? How about poor people themselves? What might God be leading each of us to do to bring his blessing of fruitfulness to other workers and would-be workers? In a world in which every nation, every society, has under- and un-employed people in need of opportunities for work, how can Christians emulate Boaz?  How can we encourage people to apply their God-given skills and talents to creating goods and services that employ people productively? How can we shape the character formation of people who own and manage society’s resources so that they eagerly and creatively provide opportunities for the poor and marginalized?

From Theology of Work Project. Image: TOW. Listen to an interview with Haddon Robinson, Alice Mathews, and Chuck Fritsma on this topic here.

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