Kindness goes a long way. Kindness gets noticed.
The neighbor who uses their own truck or snow blower to clear the driveway of one who lives next door, and who refuses payment to do so, is practicing a kindness that is usually greatly appreciated. The driver who pays for the order of the car behind them in the drive-through practices kindness that blesses another person in ways perhaps only God knows.
When Ruth accompanied Naomi back to Israel from Moab she entered a world where she was highly vulnerable. She was a widow with no parents or children to take care of her. She was a Moabite foreigner living in a land not her own. She had no job and there was no Social Security. But she had faith in the God of Naomi - the God of Israel. And Yahweh had commanded His people to care for the poor and widows and orphans.
She went to work gleaning the barley behind the harvesters in a certain field. That field "happened" to belong to Boaz, who was a close relative of Naomi's deceased husband, Elimelech, and a man of standing in Bethlehem.
Boaz came to his field to check on the harvest and noticed Ruth. He asked about her, and was told she was from Moab and was the daughter-in-law of Naomi. He had already heard of Ruth's kindness and loyalty to Naomi in returning to Israel with her. And now she is gleaning barley so she and Naomi can eat.
There is an interesting little tidbit in the story in the book of Ruth, chapter two. We read this in Ruth 2:8-9:
So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” (emphasis mine)
Boaz ordered his men to be kind to Ruth. That implies what we know to be a sad reality for the poor and vulnerable - they are often not only overlooked, they are mistreated. Boaz's kindness to Ruth extends beyond allowing her to glean from his field. He protects her. He offers her a place among his workers when they take a break. He provides water. He blesses her with kindness.
Boaz is a Christ-like figure in the story. His kindness to Ruth is symbolic of God's kindness to us. Without the grace of God, we are all vulnerable and in danger of suffering the ravages of sin and death. But God provides a place for us. God provides food and water. God provides protection. God gives the kindness of His grace.
A reservoir is a beautiful thing. Water flows in from rivers and streams and accumulates in a large lake. The dam that creates the lake also distributes the water downstream to control flooding in the river below it. Water in. Water out.
I think our lives are like a reservoir. Kindness flows in from God. Kindness flows out to others, giving life and blessing and pointing to our Savior. Grace in - grace out. Kindness in - kindness out. It's the way God designed us, and it is His intention for our lives.
There is a lake in Israel that has no outlet. We call it the Dead Sea. Why the Dead Sea? Because the salt content is so concentrated in that lake that one can hardly sink below the water, and that high salt content stifles life. No fish live in the dead sea. The sea is dead because it only takes in and has no outflow. Such becomes the soul of one who only receives the blessings of God and never blesses others.
Today, I want to be like Boaz. I want to be kind to others and express that kindness in tangible ways. I want to point to Jesus, who has been kind and gracious to me. How about you?