#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.

#296 Boaz: Serving by Treating Others Well

March 17, 2021 

We already observed that Boaz was a man of standing. Who he was on the inside influenced all we can see on the outside. In the remaining issues of this series we will look more closely at five actions of serving that illustrate his heart and character. First, we’ll look closely at how Boaz treated others.  

We often judge a leader by his/her accomplishments. What did they do? What goals were reached? What actions were taken? These are valid questions, but Boaz calls serving leaders to use different standards for measurement. Let’s look more closely at how Boaz treated several groups of people and what serving leaders can learn from his example.  

Serving leaders treat their workers well. 

 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered (Ruth 2:4, NIV). These are the first words we hear from Boaz, words of greeting. His first words were of blessing and affirmation, showing his respect and relationship with them. He was the boss, the owner, the employer, the founder of the enterprise. But Boaz didn’t check their production level before he connected with their hearts. And their response showed that the respect was mutual. Many workers look away when the boss appears, fearing his reprimand or disapproval. Boaz teaches serving leaders that treating workers well is the best approach to relationships. Treating people well will also lead to better production! But serving leaders treat their workers well, not because of any anticipated results, but because it is the right thing to do!  

Serving leaders treat strangers well. 

5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?” 6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi.  8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” (Ruth 2:5-6, 8-9). At this point in the story Ruth is a stranger to Boaz, a person he has never met. Some leaders would ignore the stranger. Others might make sure the stranger is removed from the property. But Boaz takes time to find out who she is and then promptly finds a way to serve her! He does not seek to bring her into his team to accomplish his goals; he finds a way to help her meet her goals. Serving leaders see strangers as new opportunities to serve!  

Serving leaders treat their family well. 

Near the end of the story of Ruth we get a glimpse of how Boaz interacted with his extended family. 1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down (Ruth 4:1).  

In many ways, this relative was a competitor. As the guardian-redeemer he had first claim over the land of Naomi and the widow Ruth whom Boaz now wanted to marry. But Boaz calls him “my friend….” They have an amicable discussion which ends in Boaz being blessed to marry Ruth. Boaz serves his family well by avoiding a division of relationships. He balances his own interests with those of his family and everyone leaves on friendly terms. Serving leaders treat their families well honoring the relationships above their own interests.  

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • Skim the four chapters of Ruth looking for other indications of how Boaz treated people. What do you observe? In what way can you learn from his example?  
  • What happens in my leadership space when I arrive? Do people welcome my presence or look away? How can I focus on those I lead as people rather than objects to accomplish my vision?  
  • How do I tend to view strangers? Do I see them as distractions? As potential helpers for me? Or, do I see them as new opportunities to serve? What stranger have I met in the last week and what might God invite me to do to serve them?  
  • Read again the account of how Boaz, a single man, interacted with his extended family in Ruth 4:1-12. What more do you learn from his example?  Why might it have been hard for Boaz who was eager to get married to treat his potential rival respectfully? Who in my family do I struggle to serve? What can I do this week to honor them?  

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Boaz served by honoring the weak.  

#295 Boaz: Serving by Standing Well

March 2, 2021

The story of Boaz is nestled in the account of Ruth, the foreign daughter in law of Naomi. (If you’re not familiar with the story, take 10 minutes to read the book of Ruth.) Boaz appears in the story in chapter 2 after Naomi and Ruth, both widows, return to Israel from the country of Moab. His life speaks quietly and powerfully to all serving leaders and we’ll examine several areas in which his life is a model to us. The first comes as he is introduced to us for the first time.

1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz (Ruth 2:1, NIV*).

Boaz is introduced here as a “man of standing.” Reflect on that for a moment. Standing is not a word we commonly use to describe someone. But it reflects strength, valor, and uprightness. It implies dignity and action. Boaz served by being a man of standing and serves as a model to all serving leaders.

Serving leaders stand by character development.

Boaz, was a man of character. He led with integrity, he was a man of his word and he honored others. All these reflect a person of unswerving character. We will see more of his character revealed as we continue to look at his life in this series. His character is even more remarkable when we consider the time in which he lived. In Ruth we have glimpses of the reality that not everyone in the area had character like Boaz. He lived during the time of the judges when “everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). He is a man of standing because of his character. Boaz teaches serving leaders that leading begins on the inside. He demonstrates that leadership is more about who we are than what we do.

Serving leaders stand by consistent living.

Boaz is famous! We still tell his story today, thousands of years after his life. But Boaz had no idea that he would have this legacy! He was just doing what was right day after day. Leaders often look for ways to make a difference or to make an impact. Boaz teaches serving leaders that consistently living by godly values is the way to serve. Serving leaders do what is right, not to accomplish great things but simply because it is right. They stand day after day on their values and lead others with consistent living.

Serving leaders stand by changing others.

Boaz served as a man of “standing” and as a result his life would influence many others. Notice what people said to Naomi upon the birth of his son, Obed.

14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! (Ruth 4:14)

The life and character of Boaz impacted Ruth and her mother in law Naomi. But it also led to generations of famous leaders in Israel, first King David and ultimately Jesus! His character would be passed on to many generations. Boaz teaches serving leaders that when we stand well, we serve well. We make a difference when we stand!

For further reflection and discussion:

· Skim the four chapters of Ruth with “standing” in mind. Do you see other examples that demonstrate how Boaz was a man of standing?

· Would others call me a person of “standing”? Are there any gaps in my character that impact my ability to lead? What steps will I take to rectify these issues? In what areas do I need God to change my heart?

· Is my leadership focused more on end results or daily consistency?

· In what ways does my leadership reflect consistently doing what is right? Am I tempted to do what looks beneficial instead of what is right? What is God inviting me to change?

· Who is watching my life and leadership closely? How does my standing impact them? What difference will my standing make 100 years from now? How does that motivate me to serve by standing?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

* Other translations use “mighty man of wealth”, “prominent man of noble character”, “a man of worth”, and “worthy man” to describe Boaz.

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Boaz served by treating others well.