We should be more grateful.
There is a fair amount of talk about the 1%, but if you look at things from a worldwide perspective... we're already there for the most part. The global median annual salary is $1225 per year, as an example. The threshold required to make it in to that elite group of the 1% is lower than you might think - just $34,000 per person. In America, where food and opportunity are plentiful, we take a lot for granted.
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, "Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter." So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, "The Lord be with you!" And they answered, "The Lord bless you." Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, "She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, 'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.' So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest."
Then Boaz said to Ruth, "Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn." Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" But Boaz answered her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!" Then she said, "I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants." And at mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine." So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her." So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
One, We Should be Grateful for Acceptance
Ruth 2:10 Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?"
Any act of immigration is a drastic act. The change of country, of family, of language and culture is not done lightly. Immigrants do what they do for hope, for themselves and for their children, a chance at a better life. The irony is that, by the normal measures, Ruth's immigration was made without hope. She was exchanging a secure place with family for an insecure place of poverty. A place where she knew the culture and language for a place where things would be unfamiliar, and not just unfamiliar, potentially hostile.
We have to learn to see not just the outside, but through God's eyes. Ruth's green card said, Moab, vagrant, not much of value here... but God's scorecard said, giant of the faith, a powerhouse spiritually and someone God handpicked to be in the genealogy of Jesus. Because Boaz saw her as God saw her, she came to a place of unexpected acceptance and she was grateful.
Two, We Should be Grateful for Safety
Especially in the light of the recent tragedies in Orlando and California.
In Ruth, there were three references to her possibly being harmed... and it seems that the animus towards foreigners and Moabites might make them the objects of violence. Why else would Boaz specifically order his men not to harm them? They were members of a hated race and in jeopardy.
Ruth was one of “them”, not one of “us.” But Boaz saw something more in her than just a foreigner and he moved to ensure her safety. He provided a safe place for her to work and ensured that she would have a safe place through the harvest season. Ruth was grateful for acceptance, and she was grateful for safety.
Three, We Should be Grateful for Provision
Ruth 2:14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, "Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine." So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over.
Ruth came hungry, but she didn't stay that way. God brought some amazing provision to her personally, right when she needed it. And not just in food... but also in community.
The poor coming to glean didn't normally get invited to the meals for the workers. But it wasn't just buying her lunch, he invited her into the community... his acts of inclusion and provision were much more than anyone would expect. And the result was that the amount of grain she acquired was over the top. An “ephah” of grain is just under a bushel, in the case of barley right around 50 pounds. God loves to surprise us with blessing and sometimes we'll have an “ephah” moment – like Ruth let's not forget to be grateful when God blesses our socks off.
Four, We Should be Grateful for the Unseen Layer
Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, deduced his way to God’s goodness and our deserved gratefulness through looking at a rose he had picked. He remarked:
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to rest in flowers. All other areas, our powers, our desires, our food are really necessary for our existence in the first instance, but this rose is an extra. The rose’s smell and color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras. And so I say that we have much to hope from flowers.”
He seemed to me to be saying that any God who would give something like a flower is a good God, which produced some gratitude for it.
In the same way, understanding Ruth is about seeing the unseen. There are no miracles, no dreams, no visions, no prophets thundering away. But what we do have is friendship and loyalty and hope and making the best of a bad situation and an attitude of appreciation and gratefulness.
And God working behind the scenes to bring people together at the perfect place in the perfect time
Ruth 2:11-12 But Boaz answered her, "All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!"
Boaz directs Ruth's thanks to God and it's a nice move.
So what do we do? We need to learn to see the gospel in the lines of this story and in the lines God is writing in us.
Maybe you're Ruth and you feel lost. You're a stranger in a strange land and you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Know that God values you for who you are and who He created for you to be. His heart is to redeem you, and to bring you to His table and to His family. Step into His love and be grateful for His acceptance.
Maybe the circumstances of your life are such that you feel like things are too much in flux. Maybe you don't feel safe. Know that God has your back. Step into the center of His will and take refuge in His wings. Be grateful for the safety He provides.
Maybe you need provision... maybe that's financial, maybe it's something else. Ask God for it directly – He knows what you need but scripture tells us to ask – so ask! And then go where He wants you to go and do what He wants you to do... I promise you provision will show up and it won't be short.
Too often we don't see God working behind the scenes, we don't have the full picture, we don't see Boaz coming. We don't understand that God is looking both at us now, but also at generations to come.
Let us find it in our hearts to thank God for what He's doing now behind the scenes for things we don't even see. He is working and He loves us and good things are on the way.