In his book Generous Justice, Tim Keller seeks to understand what corollaries we can make with the gleaning laws of the Old Testament and the practices of modern-day business owners. For one, business owners should not “squeeze every penny of profit out of their businesses for themselves by charging the highest possible fees . . . and paying the lowest possible wages.”
According to the laws of the Old Testament, farmers and their hired servants were not permitted to meticulously harvest their fields. They were to leave overlooked sheaves of grain, olives, and grapes for the “foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deut. 24:19). In other words, by leaving behind some produce, the farmers were providing the landless poor with a means of financial sustenance that required the dignity of work. This is the generosity (and obedience to God) on which Ruth was counting when she suggested gleaning in the fields of a local landowner (v. 2).
According to historical research, gleaners usually swept in behind two different sets of hired workers: first, the harvesters who cut the stalks of grain, and the bundlers who gathered the grain. But notice Ruth’s audacious request to glean behind the harvesters— and implicitly, ahead of the bundlers (v. 7). This would allow her to gather much more grain for herself and Naomi.
Ruth caught the eye of Boaz, the owner of the field. In their first conversation, he didn’t scold her for her boldness or tell her to be satisfied with a few crumbs. Indeed, he saw her request as more evidence of her audacious faith and her commitment to provide for her widowed mother-in-law. She had taken refuge under the wings of the God of Israel v. 12)!
Apply the Word
Ruth pledged allegiance to the God of Israel, demonstrating the nature of true faith. By faith, she left behind life in Moab. By faith, she clung in love to her mother-in-law, Naomi, taking up the role of provider of the family. By faith, she put herself in the most advantageous position in the fields. Ruth shows us the active nature of faith.