Job interviews are a nerve-wracking ordeal. The feeling of being out of control regarding one’s future leads to subservient postures in relationships. This was the situation the Moabite, Ruth, found herself in after returning with her mother in-law to Bethlehem (Ruth 1). However, in this amazing Biblical narrative is a posture of grace-seeking that is reminiscent of our seeking God; it is the God-action of finding favor in others that we should model in our working relationships.
In Ruth 2, our heroine Ruth determines to create an income for her family by gleaning from the local wheat harvest. “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor” (Ruth 2:2, emphasis added). Ruth eventually finds the field of Boaz, a distant relative of her mother-in-law, to work in and receives great opportunity, protection, food and water from this owner (Ruth 2:8-9). Ruth is shocked at this amazing treatment, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10). To which, Boaz affirms her character and pronounces a blessing upon Ruth. The result is Ruth wants more of this care; she exclaims “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord… you have given me comfort and spoken kindly to your servant…” (Ruth 2:13). From this brief exchange we see the best-case scenario of a work environment, and we can glean for ourselves implications to improve our own relationships, whether in the work place, academia, churches, and communities.
The “favor” Ruth sought and received is most often translated as “grace” in the Old Testament, but can also mean “favor,” “acceptance” or “charm.” Christians often interpret “grace” as blessings or benefits that a person received but that they did not earn or deserve. Perhaps the greatest example is the grace given by God as our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). This is a powerful backdrop to understanding how Boaz treated Ruth, giving her blessings she did not deserve but he chose to give regardless – and to a foreigner no less. While Ruth did demonstrate commendable qualities in her hard work of gleaning, she did not deserve the abundance of provision she was provided (Ruth 2:15-16). Imagine what our places of work and worship would be like if we extended grace to one another, regardless if others or ourselves deserve it. As a supervisor, this principle instructs me to treat my employee with respect and care first, and judgment second.
The favor extended to Ruth provided real benefits, the first of which was opportunity. This may be the greatest blessing any of us can ask for: an undeserved opportunity to prove ourselves in the workforce or in a significant role in society (whether it be within church or community groups). This is similar to Nehemiah’s prayer request; he wanted favor with the king Artaxerxes, to be granted the opportunity to repair the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:11). The sponsoring of those within our supervision to greater opportunity is a benefit that all employers should seek to develop. Imagine the resulting attitude in our society if people received real “hand-ups” instead of merely “hand-outs.”
The second benefit Ruth received was protection. Ruth was both a woman and a foreigner; both were vulnerable people groups in that culture. This protection was both literal as Boaz told the men not to touch her (Ruth 2:9) and expansive to include food (Ruth 2:14) and water (Ruth 2:9). These were needs the poor would desperately search for and would become a daily-struggle for survival. Often it was the widow, the orphan or the foreigner that was reduced to gleaning and begging; without land rights, employment opportunities were severely limited and there was no governmental provision for these groups of people. Therefore, the favor Boaz extended to Ruth was very impactful in its provisions. This reflects God’s compassion to provide for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (Deut. 10:18, 26:12). This has heavily informed my attitude towards others:
- Do I merely give to those who can give to me?
- Am I looking for those within my sphere of influence who are vulnerable that I can provide security to?
While the problem of homelessness, severe poverty, and the orphan crisis may be too overwhelming for me to give serious consideration to, there are people with whom I interact daily who may thrive with the provision of protection from inappropriate hardships and material needs to thrive. We can start by giving to those in our places of work, in our churches, and in our neighborhoods and see the resulting change in attitude that pays-forward the blessing to others.
Lastly, favor resulted in the benefit of kindness. Ruth remarked on the comfort-given and kindness-spoken to her by Boaz (Ruth 2:13). We must remember the words we share, and the attitude they are given in, will have the greatest impact upon someone’s life. Affirmation may be the great blessing I can give to those I supervise and lead, whether it be in my work place, my church, or even my home. Scripture tells of the impact of a kind word upon a person’s demeanor and situation (Prov. 12:25). The words from my mouth can be abusive and cause damage (James 3:5) or build someone up. May we seek to extend kindness to those we work with, granting them favor with our words and deeds.
Finding favor from someone who can give us opportunity, provision, and benefit is a blessing like a cup of cold water on a hot day. As much as we seek favor from others, we too much recognize the favor we have already received and pass it on to those around us. Our places of work and worship, our society and family, will all be joyous and abundant places to live if we find favor and extend favor to one another. In an age of great division, heated debates, and segregated groups, perhaps extending favor is the answer to a prayer we should all be praying.
 Blueletterbible.org (2016). “favor,” Language lexicon. Retrieved from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2580&t=NIV