Selflessness

I was reflecting on the Book of Ruth this past week and doing some reading in various commentaries when something stood out that hadn’t before. What really stood out is Boaz’s selflessness. At Naomi’s direction, Ruth approaches Boaz and asks him to be her redeemer (3:9). Boaz is willing to be her redeemer, but there is a kinsmen redeemer who is a closer relative and in line to be her redeemer first (3:12-13).

Notice what Boaz does not do. He doesn’t tell Ruth to make her request known to the nearer redeemer. No, instead he makes it clear that he will himself approach the man and settle the matter soon (3:18). This is significant, Boaz is going above and beyond in taking up the cause of Ruth (and Naomi). Ruth was a foreigner and a widow, she would have been vulnerable to being taken advantage of and strung along. Yet, Boaz will see that the matter is resolved immediately because he is a noble man (2:1).

Boaz’s conversation with the man is seen in Ruth 4:1-12. When Boaz first mentions the prospect of redeeming the land of Elimelech, Naomi’s dead husband, the man is willing. However, when he learns that the land will also come with the responsibility of providing for Ruth and Naomi by marrying Ruth and having children to inherit the land, well, the deal sours in the man’s eyes. He says he can’t be the redeemer lest he “impair his own inheritance” (4:6). Essentially, what he means is that it will cost him too much to do that. Redeeming Ruth and Naomi will reduce what he has and therefore diminish his ability to send forth his name and wealth through his offspring.

In his commentary on the passage, Iain Duguid points out that we are not told this man’s name. He is basically referred to as “Mr. So-and-So.” Duguid then wrote:

The irony is that by seeking to protect his future legacy in this way, Mr. So-and-So ended up leaving himself nameless, missing out on having a share in the biggest legacy of all: a place in God’s plan of salvation. Boaz took a different and more sacrificial approach, embracing the opportunity to leave a legacy for someone else…By trying to protect his future, Mr. So-and-So would remain forever nameless. (pgs. 182-3)

Boaz, by being selfless and sacrificial instead of self-seeking, was given a legacy by God that included David and David’s greater Son, Jesus (Matt. 1:5-6, 16). When I read Duguid’s comments I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 10:39 where Jesus said:

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

As Jesus’s disciples, this is what we are called to. Yes, Boaz is a redeemer who points to the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus. And yes, we must know Jesus as our Redeemer by faith. Yet, the call of our Redeemer is to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24-25). We are to follow our Savior’s example of sacrifice (Eph. 5:1-2, see previous post).

David Powlison makes this point about selflessness in the life of a Christian in his book, How Does Sanctification Work?. In the last paragraph of the book he wrote:

Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of headway in sanctification is that you no longer think so much about yourself. You are starting to do better when you are not preoccupied with “How well am I doing?” You are finding yourself when you lose yourself and worry less about who you are. (pg. 112)

In other words, you are resting secure in Christ and looking more like Him by selflessly giving of yourself for the sake of others. You are helping others follow Jesus. (Think about it, sin turns us in on ourselves. Sin means we are consumed with self. Sanctification is the process of holiness…victory over sin. Therefore, “headway in sanctification” means we are less self-obsessed.)

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” –Philippians 2:4-5

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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