What RUTH has to Teach Us
As we look in the Bible, we find many references to helping the poor. We cannot avoid the conclusion that as Christians we have a God-given responsibility to help those in need. In fact, it should be us as Christ’s Church - not government - that works nonstop to alleviate poverty. The big question is how best to help? How do we give without doing harm?
The story of Ruth is instructive in how we are to address poverty. And it illustrates what the Empowerment Fund is all about.
Ruth was needy. She and her mother–in-law Naomi were both widows. Ruth settled as a stranger in Naomi’s homeland.
They had no money.
But Ruth was not given to helplessness or hopelessness. When she woke up that first morning back in Israel and evaluated the dilemma in which they found themselves, she said to Naomi, “Let me go and glean”.
Gleaning refers to the system that God had set up in Israel for the rich to help the poor. The landowners were to leave the corners of the fields for the hungry to come and pick remaining crops for themselves.
Ruth left the house that day with a need. She was hungry and she needed food. She knew she needed food for the following days as well.
She could have taken her little bowl and gone knocking on the neighbors’ doors, told them her plight, and said, “Please - I need money to buy food”.
Not Ruth. She still had her God-given instinct to provide for herself, so she grabbed her bowl and started down the road to the field. God led her to the field of rich Boaz that day. She worked with a fervor that grabbed Boaz’ attention when he came to the field at lunch. After inquiring about her and learning of her plight, Boaz took pity on her and wanted to help her.
He could have said, “Ruth, you are too beautiful to be out in the field working like this. Listen - I will find you a house. I will send you wheat every day along with an allowance to help with your day-to-day expenses.” However, we see that Boaz took a different route.
Boaz gave Ruth lunch and permission to drink the same water his threshing crew was drinking. This took care of her immediate need. Next, he told her she should come and glean in his field every day. This was helping with the need of tomorrow.
After Ruth returned to the field after lunch with her stomach full – and leftovers to go - he added the extra blessings. Boaz turned to his workers and said “Keep an eye on her and don’t let any harm come to her. Also, make sure you leave plenty for her when she is following. Even drop some sheaves on the ground behind you.”
By doing this, Boaz was providing Ruth with sustainable work. Now she would be able to easily gather enough to be feed herself and Naomi, and even have some extra to sell for profit.
Ruth went home happy that night. She had the satisfaction of knowing that God had used her and her hard work to provide for her needs. She saw hope for all her tomorrows because there was an excellent opportunity for bountiful gleaning in the coming weeks. She was not dependent on anyone.
This story brings me joy each time I hear it. The solution that this story offers to poverty is why I love the potential of the Empowerment Fund.
I have worked for other aid organizations in the past and have distributed 100s of thousands of dollars in aid. However, whenever I went back, the people were always happy to see me, but they had a bigger wish list than on the first visit. In an important sense, they were worse off after the handouts.
Visiting the recipients of clients who have received financial services through the Empowerment Fund has been entirely different. These are people who take great pride in their own hard work and success and are grateful to have received short-term loans and assistance in saving money.
They know the dignity which is right and proper for those created in God’s image.