#297 Boaz: Serving by Honoring the Weak

March 31, 2021

As we saw in the last issue Boaz showed his heart towards his workers, strangers and family by treating them well. But in his actions towards Ruth, his character is more fully revealed in the way he showed honor to her, a person with no standing in the society. The greatest test of leadership is not in how a leader treats their superiors or their peers but in how they treat those under them, especially those who are considered weak.  Ruth, by all external measures, was a weak person with very little hope in life. She was a foreigner, she was a widow, she was poor, and she was childless! But Boaz honors her and shows all serving leaders how to relate to the weak in their circles of influence.

Serving leaders honor the weak by seeing them as people.

13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.” 14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over (Ruth 2:13-14 NIV). Boaz recognized that beneath the tattered dress there was a person of worth. He saw Ruth, not as a needy widow, but as a person created in the image of God! She was nervous but she put him at ease! They shared a meal together; he served her food instead of asking her to serve him. He treated her kindly. Serving leaders do not judge the value of a person by their status or ability. They look into the eyes of every person and see an image bearer of God. Serving leaders treat the weak as fellow human beings.

Serving leaders honor the weak by restoring their dignity.

  15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” 17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah (Ruth 2:15-17).

Ruth needed help, she was poor and hungry! She and Naomi had no land and no way to harvest a crop. Many leaders would rush to meet the need with a generous gift. But Boaz doesn’t give the food to Ruth!  Instead, he provides a safe space for her to work for the grain. He makes it possible for her to do her part to earn the food. She was able to walk home in the evening with her head held higher. Boaz restored her dignity. Serving leaders are eager to help but they do it in ways that allow the recipient to recover their dignity.   

Serving leaders honor the weak by lifting people.   

 In all that Boaz did with Ruth, he was in a posture of lifting her up. Many leaders scorn the weak or push them down, demeaning them with labels of “lazy, incompetent, disfigured, worthless” etc. It is easy for leaders to crush the weak. But everything Boaz did with Ruth, including marriage in the end, was to lift her up. He treated her as a person, restored her dignity, and helped her to earn her daily bread. He avoided handouts but offered a hand up. His marriage to her showed his willingness to elevate Ruth to equal status with him in the society. He did not marry someone “beneath” his status, he lifted a beautiful person up to his level! Serving leaders are lifters of others. They especially find ways to lift the weak, providing opportunities for them to grow and develop. They serve the weak by seeing them as people, restoring their dignity and lifting them up.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Skim the four chapters of Ruth, especially chapter 2, looking for other indications of how Boaz honored the weak. What do you observe? In what way can you learn from his example?
  • What is my attitude towards those who are “weak’’? Do I treat them with less respect than my peers or superiors? Is there any person or group of people that I see with disdain? In what way is this an indication of my heart?
  • Who are the ‘weak’ in my organization or community? What can I do to see them as people? What can I do to help them recover their dignity? How can I lift them up? What is the difference between a “handout” and a “hand up”?
  • How am I tempted to “help” people in a way that decreases their sense of dignity? What can I change to provide help that builds people up?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we will look at how Boaz served by giving generously.