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Why can’t it always be like that?

Ruth 2: Why can’t it always be like that?

Ruth 2: 1-25.


So last week we started the Book of Ruth.

Last week we saw how often we don’t live our ordinary life really seeking out God, Naomi moved countries, didn’t ask God about it,

her sons married foreign women, didn’t ask God about it,

husband died and she stayed in the foreign country, didn't ask God about it.

And the truth of last week was that none of that mattered....what mattered was that God still cared. And if she had remembered that it would have helped her in her time of struggle.

And that is important because I worry that we are too like Naomi. That we saunter through life not really bothering about God and that is all well and good. But then, when we need God, we don't go to him. We are not in the habit of going to him, so we think God doesn't care and we fail to seek his help.

That is one of the reasons I so push the Bible Study notes. Because I feel that if we are constantly going to God, even if it is only for 5 minutes every day, then we get into that habit of seeking God, and then when we really need God, we find he is there, we might even grow to expect him to be there.

When seeking God becomes a habit, then we can have a really awful day and because we are in the habit of doing the Bible Study notes, we get to the end of the day and we look at the notes and we finish the day thinking, ‘But God is with me. I can seek his help.’

Anyway. that was fine for last week. This week was another problem.

I read the passage that you heard Margaret read this morning. And I thought to myself, ‘What theological point am I supposed to get out of this?’

To be honest I couldn't think of I am opening it up to you this morning. What point do you think God is trying to get over today in this passage?

I thought of a few weak messages.

Maybe that God helps those that help themselves.

That God supplied the harvest but still expected Ruth to go out and pick up the barley. That sometimes we seek God’s help and when we do that we just sit still and expect something to happen.

Whereas God expects us to do our bit and he fills in the rest.

But it was a bit weak.

Maybe the message was that those that have a lot should always be freer with what they have. That God gives to us, but he expects us to give from our wealth. The expectation in that culture at that time was that the owner of the field always left the edges un-harvested so that those without a job, those that were poor, could still have something to eat. And that maybe we should have equivalent traits in our life, so that those with less can benefit from God’s generosity to us.

We do live in a society where so many of us cling onto what we have for grim life.

I was in Cannes. The boats in Cannes are probably some of the best in the world. People go to Cannes just to show off what they have.

While there I saw this boat. Now I am not a particularly materialistic person. And I am not even a boat person. But I saw this boat and I thought, ’That would be a great boat to have.’

The owner of that boat obviously had a lot of money.

This is what got me...

I was looking at the boat for a while and I noticed that lots of families were passing by and thinking the same thing I was. A lot were taking selfies of themselves with the boat in the background. And they were getting great pleasure out of that simple act. They would go home and say to their mates. See this boat that’s my boat. And everyone would know it isn't, but just the idea would bring them a bit of happiness.

Didn't bring the owner any happiness.

He was furious that people were taking pictures of his boat.

Then what happened later got me even more.

Because the boat left the marina,

I don't know if it was because he didn't want people taking pictures of his boat or he had an appointment elsewhere. But the boat had a crew of about eight that took the boat out.

Here’s the thing that got me.

If I had spent millions on buying that boat, I would regard that boat as my toy. And I would want to be the one who played with that toy. I would want to drive the boat. But here was someone who had spent millions on an amazing boat, and he was paying other people a lot of money to enjoy playing with his toy. How mixed up is that?

Anyway, maybe the point of the passage was that we should be more generous with the stuff that God has been generous to us with. But again I thought that was a weak sermon.

So then I read the passage again and it got to me what the problem was. There are no problems in this passage. It is just everyone being nice to everyone else. Ruth is being nice to Naomi. The farm workers are nice to Ruth. Boaz is nice to his workers and then nice to Ruth.

They all know that Ruth is a foreigner, an immigrant, but they are nice to her.

They all know that Ruth has no one to help her if they want to attack her, but they are still nice to her.

Everyone is just decent to everyone else.

And that got me thinking, ‘Why can't it always be like that?’

Because we live in a world that often isn't like that.

I’m going to give you some shocking statistics. But I am also going to warn you that the statistics I give you will not be the most shocking thing you hear.

This was a survey of when it is justified to beat up your wife (from ‘When to Rob a Bank’ Levitt and Dubner)...

Let’s get a baseline of what we think first.

Hands up any of those who think it is justifiable at any time to beat up a one. Well to be honest that's what I expected.

But that was not the response in this survey.

In this survey 52% of the responders said a husband was justified in beating up his wife if she neglected the children.

45% of the responders felt it is justified for the husband to beat up his wife if she went out without telling him or argues with him.

36% of the responders felt it was justified for the husband to beat up his wife if she refused to have sex with him.

30% of the responders felt it was justified for the husband to beat up his wife if she burnt the dinner.

Those statistics are not the most shocking thing.

The most shocking thing was that the survey was of women. African woman.

Goodness knows what the men thought.

Think about that. Imagine you’re a wife and you have just been beaten up. You go to the next door neighbour for help and the woman opens the door. And you know there is over a 50% chance that even the woman thinks that you deserved the beating and wouldn't help you.

If we want the world to be like it was for Ruth in that field, then we need to work at it. It isn't just going to happen.

I was invited to a barbeque last Saturday night and they started to talk about Brexit. This was a group of very well off people.

One of them was moving abroad with a new job, I suspect worried at what will happen over here after Brexit and moving to what she feel is a better off country. All the rest had places abroad. And I suspected that they would have a wide view of Brexit because they were not only experiencing it from our side, but could see how the rest of Europe were viewing it.

And I commented that my big concern about Brexit is that those least able to adapt to it will be the ones who suffer the most. That it will be the poorest that are most affected by the repercussions of what happens. And this very well off women who was just about to go off on a very expensive foreign holiday replied, ‘They’ll get over it.’

If we want the world to be like it was for Ruth in that field, then we need to work at it. It isn't just going to happen.

Every week we have in the order of service not only an intimation giving folk the opportunity to donate to the food bank, but also reports about what the food bank is doing. How many they have helped, how many references they have received that week. And, when Sheena and I occasional talk about it, one of the concerns that she has, is that the people we think need help, are not the people that we used to think needed help.

In the past we thought that those that needed help were the drug users and the alcoholics that had a chaotic life that they just couldn't cope with. People who had made bad decisions and were in a spiral of making bad decisions. The hope was that if we could give them some help, some stability, then maybe they could use that as an anchor to get through their storm and move on.

But more and more those being referred to the food bank are families, and one or both the parents have jobs. But the expense of the homes, the expense of rents, and the poverty of the wages, means that they can’t make enough money to make ends meet. They are choosing between food and rent, food and heat, food and school cloths.

There was a documentary on last Monday on Channel 4 that talked about the growing thousands of people working who are homeless. That the money they earn isn't enough for them to buy or rent somewhere to live. And more and more of those people are not single people but families.

If we want the world to be like it was for Ruth in that field, then we need to work at it. It isn't just going to happen.

And it starts here.

It starts with us.

With the attitudes that we hold in our hearts.

The way we treat others.

Ruth was decent to others.

The workers were decent to the women collecting at the edge of the field.

Boaz was decent to the workers.

This is a very simple message from God.

If we want the world to be a better place it starts with us deciding that we are going to be decent to others.

Not to some others, not to our favourite others, not to those we think are deserving others, but to all others.

It’s as simple as that.

It’s not rocket science.

It’s not difficult.

But if we aren't decent to others, if we don't treat people with respect and dignity...then we end up with the world we have.

And who wants that?

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