Most every religion and philosophy has its own list of virtues and ethical standards. Many of those virtues and ethical systems overlap. Why? Because there are common standards of decency, compassion, and love. When it comes to Christian virtues I think of 3 main passages of Scripture that I try to filter my life through: 1) the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-10; 2) the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13; 3) and the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. The Bible clearly teaches that “our behavior flows from our being,” and that we “act in accordance with who we are.” Becoming godly and virtuous is key to how we behave and relate to others.
God has called us to be people of virtue. He has called us to be good people and relate and care for others in a good and virtuous way. In other words, God wants us to be like and love like Jesus.
3 Practices that Build & Demonstrate Virtue
Boaz was a virtuous man. I am challenged by what I call 3 life practices that he demonstrated in the way he related to Ruth and others. These three practices point to 3 overarching virtues that dominated the way he lived and loved. We would do well to emulate these 3 in our lives as well.
#1: Do the Right Thing (Virtue = Be Righteous)
- Ruth 4:1-4 “Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer[a]he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. 2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you[b] will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”“I will redeem it,” he said.”
- Boaz could have washed his hands of this responsibility but he didn’t. He was responsible and was a man who consistently did the right thing. He had obviously developed the godly virtue of righteousness.
- Some people are consistently irresponsible or regularly do the wrong thing. Boaz was not that… he was righteous.
- Jesus also did the right thing. He was righteous in all He did and said. He was righteous in in every relationship.
- To be righteous means to practically follow through on what God has called you to do and be and how He has called you to relate to others. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us to “do the right thing by demonstrating patience, kindness, and honesty (among other things).
#2: Do the Selfless Thing (Virtue = Be Compassionate)
- Ruth 5:5-6 “5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the[c]dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
- Now there are a couple of possibilities here. 1) Naomi is forced to sell the land she owns because she is destitute and the danger is that it will be sold outside the family. 2) She does not own the land, it was sold by Elimelech before the family left for Moab, but by law she has the right to redeem it/buy it back, but lacks the funds. Either way, she needs the kinsman-redeemer to step in and make a way where there is no way. Without the kinsman-redeemer coming through…her future and the future for Ruth are grim.
- Then the other half of the obligation is Ruth. Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) provided that Ruth’s firstborn son would keep Mahlon’s name alive and would possess the right of ownership of the family inheritance.
- The first-in line kinsman-redeemer balks at the possibility of becoming the kinsman redeemer. There was potential risk his estate, so he says no. Yet his refusal to redeem it highlights the kindness and generosity of Boaz. Boaz was willing to take the risk and do the selfless thing. Boaz and his compassion are a major theme here.
- There is something strikingly similar about the story of Jesus towards us. He endangered himself and risked everything for us. He showed selfless devotion, generosity and compassion towards us.
- So let us choose to do the selfless thing and risk being compassionate. I Cor 13 tells us there are practical ways we can do this such as being quick to forgive, being slow to anger, and persevering and not giving up on others.
#3: Do the Honorable Thing (Virtue: Be Honoring)
- Ruth 4:7-10 “7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) 8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon.10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
- Boaz steps up and agrees to assume the role of kinsman-redeemer. Regardless of risk and personal cost, he chooses to do the right, compassionate, and loving thing. He happily redeems the property and takes Ruth as his wife…and respects the dead man’s name.
- Notice who he honors here
- The community.
- The deceased.
- The family name.
- God (When we honor others we honor God.).
- It’s a little hard for us to get our head wrapped around everything that this meant back then but we can know this – the Bible recognizes Boaz’s love and compassion and he serves as an illustration of God’s love for us.
- Jesus risked everything to redeem us and loves us more than we could ever know. His love should overwhelm us. Talk about being honored – The God of the universe sent His son to die for me and you.
- So how do we honor others? 1 Corinthians 13 highlights several practical ways including:
- Building others up (and not boasting)
- Showing humility (and not arrogance)
- Truly respecting others (not disrespecting them)
To be a good husband, father, wife, son, daughter, friend…means that we are good on the inside. We are virtuous and growing to become more virtuous. It is out of this abundance of who we are that we act and behave and relate.
We should want to get better at the most important thing in our lives… relationships. Let’s practice Christian virtues and as we practice patience, forgiveness, etc. we will become more like Jesus. True happiness is becoming more like Christ.