Monday, July 28, 2008

Ruth: common sense

When Naomi decided to go home, it wasn’t out of remorse or a desire for reconciliation. She went home because there was plenty of food in Bethlehem. It’s hard to give her credit for higher motives than that. She’d left searching for provision and it made sense to her to return for the same reason.

Naomi used common sense and her own practicality to take care of her own needs. But do you notice the emptiness and bitterness in her heart? Even when Ruth poured out a beautiful statement of love and commitment (Ruth 1:16-17), Naomi said no more to Ruth. She didn’t argue; she just didn’t respond. There was no pledge of any sort of love to Ruth or offer of any encouragement. She just continued to Bethlehem with Ruth in tow.

Naomi trusted her own common sense to provide for her daughters-in-law. The idea of sending them back to their families and their gods was not distasteful to her. It was practical. They needed husbands and children. They wouldn’t find those with her. If going back to their mother’s homes meant idolatry, that was a shame. But at least they’d have families. Her common sense blinded her to the bigger issue.

What Naomi wanted for Ruth and Orpah was rest. Some translations call it security or comfort or permanence, but Naomi urged Ruth and Orpah to go back to their mothers. There, she believed, they would have physical prosperity.

She assumed these young women would want what she wants. Again, common sense told her there is no other priority for a woman than to be married and have children. She can imagine nothing else for Ruth and Orpah.

Don’t we make plans and then ask God to bless them? Don’t we worry when our child leaves for college? We assume the right to anxiety and worry, couching them in terms that sooth our conscience. It’s nothing new, this confidence in common thinking and personal analysis.

We sometimes think that there is a scripture inscribed on a card somewhere assuring us that “God helps those who help themselves.”

It’s the theology of common sense. Naomi returned to Bethlehem trusting her own perspective. But God had something new for Naomi to look at.

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