How Do You Measure It?

It seems like every time I read through Scripture I discover ‘new’ things in familiar passages. I had one of those moments this spring while going through the Book of Ruth. Before I share my discovery, let me rewind the story for you.

We are introduced to Ruth in 1:4a when she marries into Naomi’s family. The account that follows is one of deprivation and loss. (1) In verse 4b we are told in the story that they “lived there about ten years.” Throughout all those years Ruth was barren (cf. 4:13b). Throughout all those years the famine continued to dry out the land of Israel. (2) Then in 1:5 Ruth’s husband dies. Ruth is left a widow. (3) In 1:6 Naomi decides to return to Israel without her daughters-in-law. Ruth faces abandonment by her mother-inlaw. (4) In 1:6-18 Ruth chooses to return to Bethlehem with Naomi. This choice means that she chooses to leave her parents, her people, her homeland, her culture, etc. The choice will place her at the bottom of Israel’s social ladder—a foreigner (and a foreign woman at that). (5) Naomi, her only Israelite family and traveling companion, is consumed by bitterness (vv. 19-21). Naomi feels robbed by God and insists on being renamed “Bitter” (i.e., Marah).

(6) Chapter 2 apparently records Ruth’s first morning in Israel. The day starts early (2:7) and ends late (2:17). The day is filled with backbreaking labor. First, with stooping over picking up what the harvesters had dropped. Then with threshing and winnowing. Finally with carrying her gleanings back to Bethlehem and home . . . only to repeat the process on the morrow. (7) When lunch time comes she apparently had nothing to eat for Boaz directs her to eat what he had provided for his laborers (2:14). We may assume that she had eaten nothing for breakfast. Naomi and Ruth had returned to Bethlehem virtually empty-handed to a house that had been abandoned over 10+ years earlier. (8) Through Boaz’s generosity, Ruth is given more food then she can eat for lunch (2:14). (9) As we approach the end of chapter 2, Ruth has returned home to Naomi and is sharing an account of her day.

My point of discovery is in 2:18b. Naomi has been home all day apparently with little or no food. So Ruth reaches into her pocket for the left over food from lunch time. The version in front of me reads – Ruth “gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.” The Hebrew text reads something like – Ruth “gave her what she had remaining from her abundance.” The word carries the basic idea of plenty or abundance.

Here in lies the question — “How do you measure abundance?” I’m not sure that many people in our contemporary, affluent society would have considered left overs from the only meal you had that day after over 10+ years of loss and deprivation as abundance. However, Ruth considered it abundance to be shared with others. We would do well to stop in the busyness of life and in making a living to check our definition of abundance. According to God’s Word, what is it? Do I already have it? Where can I share it? Perhaps it would help to read James 2:15-17 as a commentary both on Ruth 2:18 and on our lives.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

About Charles McLain
I am Chair and Professor of Old Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA.

2 Responses to How Do You Measure It?

  1. Kurt says:

    Excellent reminder Chuck, thanks!

    • Charles McLain says:

      Glad to share it!!!

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