Boaz asked his young servant who was foreman over the farm hands, “Who is this young woman? Where did she come from?” The foreman said, “Why, that’s the Moabite girl, the one who came with Naomi from the country of Moab. She asked permission. ‘Let me glean,’ she said, ‘and gather among the sheaves following after your harvesters.’ She’s been at it steady ever since, from early morning until now, without so much as a break.”
So why is Boaz absent during the harvest? Shouldn’t he be there? No, he is showing great leadership. He has a competent foreman in place.
Why is he letting the foreman, a servant, carry the load? What if he gets it wrong or let’s someone into the field who is clueless and ruins everything? What if a gleaner causes trouble?
Whether my field is my home, my small group or my work place, my inability to entrust responsibility to someone else shows how controlling or insecure I am.
There are three people in this conversation: The Wealthy Righteous farmer, the foreman in charge, and the person they are talking about: the foreigner gleaning in this field.
If I am the Boaz in the story, it is speaking to me about my responsibility as the farmer, leader, person responsible for the harvest in my field and for who is working in my field.
The author has already told me some things about Boaz that frame his character. We know he is a wealthy farmer harvesting barley in the middle of harvest season. We know he is related to the family of Elimilech which is an important fact later in the story. We also know, he is the son of Rahab (a foreigner, a prostitute from Jericho who had extended her help to the Israelite spies and in turn was rescued by the Israelites. Rahab, like Ruth, had left her city and joined the nation of Israel as a foreigner). Boaz now returns from who knows where and enquires about a new worker he has seen in his field. He expects his foreman to know what is going on and the foreman, like his master, has done his homework. Boaz sees a foreigner in his field and enquires of her. Is it just her beauty or is it his compassion? His mother’s story would have helped frame his worldview.
Just because Boaz has been absent does not mean he is not interested in what is going on in his field. As a leader, or as a mother, as I delegate responsiblity to others, it can be hard to know how much I need to be hands on and how much I must entrust to others. I have got it wrong enough times to question my own leadership and frame my decisions based on that experience. But Boaz is a man of God. I don’t want to read into the story but today I feel like God is highlighting some insecurities in me so that is where I am going to sit. When I feel the need to micro manage , it speaks volumes about my inability to trust, to trust my judgement or those I delegate to and trust God with my gifts and with my field. It speaks volumes about my need to control or be in charge. If stuff goes wrong…so what???…Steve and I hate micro management. We have sat under it and it is disempowering, inhibits and restricts growth and restricts the ability to discover and develop their own leadership gift. But it also means we can swing too far away, leaving those who serve us feeling we don’t care. I find the tention really hard to resolve.
There are times when people want micro management because it is all they know. They are attracted to the attention it brings or the safety and security it provides. But that is not us and teaching those who are helping us with the harvest to trust their own gifts and grow into that role without us making decisions for them, can be a hard transition both for me and them. I hate leadership vacuums and tend to be able to make quick decisions so trusting others to look after my field can be really hard. My personality can override my trust…and my ability to entrust. In my role as a nurturer, God has given me leaders to care for the sheep and I find the balance of trusting their leadership and not micromanaging…really hard. I can trust them. If I am going to create a culture of blessing and godly character, God will give me workers who can cultivate the favour and kindness that Boaz had cultivated in his field.
I often get the balance right and often get it wrong. Boaz notices a change in his field and enquires about it to stay in tune with what is happening in his fields. I love the rapport you can feel between owner and foreman. It is not an accusation but rather helps us feel the tone of this relationship. I actually have to switch off when I listen to people grumbling about Steve and I not doing everything for them. It can be hard as Pastor and nurturer and leader to know how to trust others to do the work of the ministry. I only wish everyone was like this foreman and like this Ruth. The analogy is not always going to work for me but that does not stop me from having an expectation that this is the picture of what it should look like.
There is potential for godly partnership to flourish under this type of leadership.
In nurture, as I entrust the care of church women under new leaders this year, I pray the leaders will be like this foreman: trustworthy, confident foremen (women) …extending a culture of blessing and favour and grace. I pray that whether or not I am hands-on, absent or present, that I will have eyes and ears open to know what is going on in my field. I pray that the harvest itself will not override my need to extend grace and care for the labourers themselves. I pray I will find a balance between trust and engagement and not lead out of insecurity but trust.
Boaz had already heard about Ruth. Gossip or the grapevine had already meant that, in this small town the story of Ruth and Naomi were already being bandied around and we know that Boaz has already heard the story but Boaz enquires about her himself….not sure of the details he does his own homework.
I pray that what I hear about others outside the field will not frame what I do. I want to make sure that I seek out information for myself and not trust hearsay. There will be many different types of gleaners and I can trust the foremen to care for them.
I also love the foreman in this story. He knew his workers and did his own detailed analysis so that when the boss came round he could give a clear report. Boaz arrives and the workers are doing what they should be. This is what speaks volumes about the foreman. The boss didn’t have to sort out farm issues. When Boaz inquires about someone in the field the foreman does get defensive. Boaz didn’t have to chase up on information or question his decisions. I love the rapport you feel between the foreman and Boaz. The partnership between Ruth and Boaz starts with the connection between Boaz and the foreman and Ruth and the foreman. The forman is the connector. Sometimes we can minimalise our role in caring and extending grace to those who are meant to the written into the story of redemption. The pivotal person the partnership between Baoz and Ruth is the foreman.
Ruth worked hard whether or not the owner / manager was there or not. She respected the rules of the field.Even though it was a servant in charge, she treated the foreman asshe would the farmer: Respect and hard work. I watch people. I find it intriguing when they get upset if the owner is not intimately involved in their lives. On the other hand I don’t want to be a farmer disinterested and distant. There are so many people who want to speak only to the boss, the leader, the pastor, the small group leader, or they only want to glean when the boss is around. We have a strange human trait in us that wants recognition from those in authority but there is something different about Ruth. She is there to glean with a different agenda. It is not about the boss…and this in itself is attractive. Ruth worked hard not to earn the favour of the boss but because she already felt favour and kindness. Is this just a perspective thing? Why is it that some people only feel fab our when they are receiving recognition and don’t feel favour until they’re received recognition. Ruth gleans where she will find favour not to earn favour. This is the story of salvation. We do not need to glean to earn salvation and earn favour. We can glean in the context where favour already exists.
Ruth has come out of a place of grief and loss, she is a foreigner and she is different yet she does not pout. She could have been ashamed of where she comes from but she is simply focussed on her role as provider.
She is not trying to figure out why the farmer is and why he isn’t there and why he doesn’t care. She simply gets on and lets her life shine. The foreman’s report is one of Ruth. The foreman’s report is not just on how she came to be in the field but what he seen about her work ethic. She does not complain!!! She simply works hard.
This guy Boaz shows me how to lead. Without reading too much into the story: I see CHRIST….I see the image of God in his treatment of his workers, in his leadership, in his gift of grace, undeserved kindness and generosity.
Creating a culture of generosity, kindness and favour over the fields I am responsible also requires me to step away, to trust and and to delegate and not do all the work. That requires a generous heart in my part too.