Dr. Ethan Jones: Book of Ruth is a tribute to the value of hard work

By Julie Owens

Originally appeared at https://swbts.edu/news/releases/book-ruth-tribute-value-hard-work-speaker-argues/

The book of Ruth tells the story of loyalty in the face of tragedy, and the hand of God at work in the lives of everyday people. But Ruth also distinguishes herself through sheer hard work, a Southwestern Seminary Old Testament professor told students and faculty at the final Land Center luncheon of the semester.

Ethan Jones, associate professor of Old Testament at Scarborough College, focused on the value of work in his presentation, “Women, Foreigners and Famine: A Theology of Work in the Book of Ruth” on Nov. 29. “Work may not be the point of the book of Ruth, but it is certainly next beside the point,” Jones said.

The book of Ruth offers an insight into how the blessings of God can be bestowed even in difficult times. Ruth committed her life to helping others and to hard work, and as a result, she was blessed by God for her faithfulness.

Following the deaths of her husband and sons, Naomi, broken and empty, decided to return to Bethlehem. She told her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their own mothers and remarry. Orpah reluctantly left. “But Ruth clung to Naomi, showing commitment,” Jones said. “Orpah does what is good, but Ruth does what is best.”

Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. Ruth and her distraught mother-in-law faced destitution, so in order to support them, Ruth went to the fields to glean. “The first thing she said was, ‘I will work,’” Jones said. “There is no indication that she is doing this to benefit herself.”

The field to which she went belonged to a man named Boaz, who showed her kindness and allowed her to glean because he had heard of her bravery, faith and loyalty to her mother-in-law. When Ruth asks why she has been granted such favor, Boaz tells her that it is because of the way she worked to provide for Naomi.

“The narrative of the value of work is lost on many of today’s millennials,” Jones said. “But Ruth did not waver. She asked to work. She eschewed laziness.”

“Millennials seek to be on a fast track to advancement,” Jones said. “They want compensation, development or coaching. But this won’t get a sympathetic view from Ruth. She wants to work.”