What Christian Entrepreneurs Owe the Poor

by Brad Harmon on November 19, 2009 in Stewardship

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld Ruth in Boazs Field 600x361 | marketplace christianity

Does the Christian Entrepreneur have an obligation to the poor?  If so, does giving to the church cover our obligation?  Thanksgiving is next week, and Christmas is right around the corner.  It is a time of the year that always makes me stop to think of all the blessings for which I have to be thankful.

My favorite Dickens story, Scrooge, will be playing in all its versions soon (there is yet another version due to hit the theaters).  I can’t help but think about poor Tiny Tim and the heartless Ebenezer.

Thankfully, there’s another person that comes to mind when I start thinking about the poor.  His name is Boaz, and there is a lot that we can learn from him.

Boaz – A Man of Standing

Boaz first appears in Ruth chapter 2, and is described as a “man of standing.”  The term literally means a man of valor, but it can be expanded to mean a man who is capable in his community and lives an exemplary lifestyle.

Boaz has returned from Jerusalem and bids his harvesters with a hearty, “The LORD be with you!”  The harvesters promptly replied back with an equally hearty, “The LORD bless you!”  I wonder how many employers could say that they have that type of relationship with their employees?  Does charity begin at home?

As Christian entrepreneurs, we should treat our employees so well that they will never want to leave us.  We should go above and beyond the norm and provide as much as possible to them.  We should be known by our generosity.

Boaz – Friend to the Needy

The next thing Boaz does is ask his foreman about a new woman that he saw in the fields going behind his servants gathering the spilled barley.

Ruth and Boaz in the FieldsIn Jewish law, it was commanded that the poor be allowed to pick up the spillage from the harvest.   In fact, it legally belonged to the poor.  This was only one provision for the poor in the law, and it was over and above the tithe.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 19:9-10

It was not uncommon for the poor to be in his fields, but he still noticed the new person.  His foreman told him how Ruth had been working diligently all day long, and about what she had done for her mother-in-law.

Boaz went to Ruth and told her he wanted her to stay in his fields where his men were harvesting, and to follow the female servants behind them so she would be protected.  He also told her she could drink from the water jugs prepared for his harvesters whenever she was thirsty.

All of this was above and beyond what the law required him to do.  It doesn’t sound much like the way most entrepreneurs think about the poor outside their buildings, does it?

Boaz – The Humanitarian

Boaz didn’t stop there.  At mealtime, he beckoned her over and fed her till she was full and had leftovers.  When she left to start gathering again, he told his harvesters to let her wander into the sheaves (which were his) and for them to even pull some out and leave them on the ground for her.  My new friend, Brandon Cox, has a post called God Gives Handfuls on Purpose (what a great title) looking at this from a different view.

Ruth and Boaz in the FieldsBoaz also told his harvesters not to rebuke Ruth.  He understood the disgrace that she must have felt having to pick up the leftovers of the poor.  He wanted to give her back some of her humanity.

It’s sad that with all the things that have already been stripped from the poor, so many are willing to take their humanity too.  Did you notice that the portion of the crop that was left for the poor was in the corners?  I think it was so they could easily access it and stay out of sight retaining some of their dignity.

Ruth stayed in the field until evening gathering as much as she could, then she spent most of the night threshing the barley.  She was not looking for a handout.  She wanted to work, and she worked hard for what she gleaned.

Boaz – A Lineage of Kings

Before the story is done, Boaz continues to give more to Ruth.  He ends up marrying Ruth to fulfill the obligation of the Kinsmen Redeemer under Jewish law after the first in line refused to do so.  It is from this marriage that Obed was born, father of Jesse, who was father of King David.  It’s also the lineage of Christ’s birth .

You just never know where a little kindness will lead, do you?  As Christian entrepreneurs, we are no longer under the Old Testament law.  As stewards though, I think it would be unwise to ignore the examples set forth by both the law and Boaz.

James tells us in the New Testament that true religion involves looking after orphans and widows in their distress.  Christ continually showed compassion on the poor.  As joint heirs with Him, we should follow His example.

A Holiday Request

As the holiday season approaches, stop and count your blessings.  Ask God what He would have you do about the poor in your life.  It’s a great season to do this, but since it is also budget season for some, maybe now is a great time to add the poor to your budgets for next year.

With the way the economy looks for the near term, there will be plenty of poor from which to choose.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita November 22, 2009 at 2:21 am

Some would call helping the poor socialism. I call it the word of God. Thank you once again for a great post. I like how you apply the word to our lives today, especially for us Christian entreprenurs. As I study the bible more and more, I'm learning application.

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Brad Harmon November 22, 2009 at 6:52 am

Thanks Rita. I love the book of Ruth. Ruth and Boaz are both so inspirational to me. So many great lessons in such a little book.

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Laurie Neumann January 20, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Brad,

This is a great post. I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner.

I firmly believe we are called, as Christian entrepreneurs, to share some of what we earn with the poor. This is not only for entrepreneurs, but for everyone. However, as a Christian entrepreneur, I feel we have been given the opportunity to earn income and be able to share it.

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Brad Harmon January 22, 2010 at 12:44 am

Thanks Laurie. I heard someone say the other day that the idea of giving to the church as a charitable donation is harming how Christians see their obligations as stewards of God's money. The story of Boaz and Ruth are a great example of the provision God required the Israelites to make on behalf of the poor (i.e., charity). This was completely separate from the tithes and offerings. I think we clearly have an obligation to do both.

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