And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:…
This benevolence of Boaz seems to me to have two lessons in it: one practical how we should do our benevolence; and one theological — how God does His benevolence. You will see, in the first place, that Boaz does not give her the wheat. Generous as he is, she earns what she gets. He does not send her back home and send the young men with sheaves after her; he lets her work for what she receives. To give something for nothing is always a dangerous piece of business. Sometimes we must do it, it is true, but it is not the ideal kind of benevolence. If you desire to do something for the poor that will endure, let them do something to earn that which they receive from you. And yet while Boaz thus allows her to earn what she receives, so that she is no pauper, no beggar, has no self-respect taken away from her, he does it largely and with a great, generous mood, not in a niggardly way. But, most of all, he gives her secretly. Boaz anticipated Christ. A great many years before Christ had said, "Let not your right hand know what your left hand does," Boaz practised that maxim. He hid his benevolence from this woman, and Boaz enjoyed the benevolence all the more because she did not understand it. In our benevolence let us maintain the self-respect of those we aid; let us not make paupers of them; and strive how we can do the most good with the least possible display. That is not the ordinary rule, but it is a good one. But this story of the benevolence of Boaz is also a parable. It indicates the way in which God does His good works among men. Did you ever think how true it is that God also maintains our self-respect when He gives to us — how very little He gives unless we do something to get the gift? When we pray for bread for our need, He does not give us the bread; He gives us a piece of land, and a plough, and a hoe, and we must sweat for the bread. When we pray for clothing, He does not send the clothing; He gives us that out of which we can by our own industry make the clothing. It is certainly true in the material realm. It is true in the intellectual realm. The world is full of wisdom, full of the resources out of which wisdom is gathered; but we must gather it; we cannot get our wisdom ready-made. It is not handed to us. And this is equally true in the spiritual realm. God no more hands the bread of life ready-made than He hands the material bread ready-made. But how generously He gives to those who are willing to work for Him, and take that given in that spirit which preserves the self-respect while receiving the benevolence! We cut down the forests and find the coal-mine; we exhaust the ocean of its whales and find gas and electricity to take their place; and now the scientific men are discussing the problem whether they cannot find a way to utilise the seemingly wasted sunlight. Nature has reservoired them in the coal-fields — that is, God has reservoired them — and out of its reservoir we gather the light. But now men are beginning to say, "Can we not reservoir this sunlight, this heat that goes to Waste, and make it do the world's work for us?" The world is full of God's gifts. He only waits for us with pick and axe and hoe, with sweat of brain and sweat of body, to find a way to realise them. And as God sets us to work to get His gifts, and as God fills the world full with them, so God conceals Himself in the giving. I turn to my books of literature, and I find praises of Nature. Nature! What is Nature but a word for God? What is Nature but the minister and servant? What is Nature but the elements that are dropping the great sheaves of wheat in our path, and we do not know that Boaz is hiding behind the hedge smiling at our joy in our discovery. God conceals Himself. He ministers through others, and takes as to Himself the thanks we give to them.
(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: