Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11, 4:13-17
Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, well-to-do and of Elimelech’s clan. His name was Boaz.
Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Let me go into the fields and glean among the ears of corn in the footsteps of some man who will look on me with favour.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she set out and went to glean in the fields after the reapers. And it chanced that she came to that part of the fields which belonged to Boaz of Elimelech’s clan.
Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Listen, my daughter, and understand this. You are not to glean in any other field, do not leave here but stay with my servants. Keep your eyes on whatever part of the field they are reaping and follow behind. I have ordered my servants not to molest you. And if you are thirsty, go to the pitchers and drink what the servants have drawn.’ Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground. And she said to him, ‘How have I so earned your favour that you take notice of me, even though I am a foreigner?’ And Boaz answered her, I have been told all you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death, and how you left your own father and mother and the land where you were born to come among a people whom you knew nothing about before you came here.’
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And when they came together, the Lord made her conceive and she bore a son. And the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord who has not left the dead man without next of kin this day to perpetuate his name in Israel. The child will be a comfort to you and the prop of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you and is more to you than seven sons has given him birth.’ And Naomi took the child to her own bosom and she became his nurse.
And the women of the neighbourhood gave him a name. ‘A son has been born for Naomi’ they said; and they named him Obed. This was the father of David’s father, Jesse.
Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.
‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’. You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Someone I know was recently incensed about a ‘shake-up’ in his department. The management there decided to change the job titles and grades of the staff in his department, and the lack of communication and the way it was managed (or mismanaged) caused a bit of strife amongst the staff. The management had to hastily do some ‘damage repair’, but the damage was already done.
We place great importance on our job titles — it shows progression on our CVs, and hierarchical importance in the chain of command. Even clients and customers would prefer to deal with someone who has authority, and that authority is seemingly depicted in the title on our business cards. It gives us a sense of importance, especially when our position is acknowledged by others.
Jesus issued a warning to his disciples, especially on the pursuit of titles. He must have known that it would be so easy for his disciples to be sucked into the practice of ‘vain glory’, and let the pursuit of the position overshadow the purpose of their work. The title was not important, it was the role. And Jesus reminds us not to go down the route of the scribes and Pharisees, lest we too forget the reason for our calling.
Jesus reminds us that we are all equal in God’s eyes. There is only one Rabbi, and only one God. We may be the president of the company, or a tea lady in the pantry; whatever our position in life, at the end of the day, when we stand before God to account for our lives here on earth, that position is not going to matter.
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” says today’s Gospel. Let us rid ourselves of the feeling of self-importance and remind ourselves that it is our service over self that will determine our true standing in heaven.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer – Lord, forgive us for the times when we have allowed self-importance to overshadow our work, especially in our work for God. Help us to realize that it is not how close we are to a position of authority, but how we serve our brothers and sisters in Christ that matters.
Thanksgiving – Lord, we are thankful for our positions in life. Let us realize that the real privilege that comes with our positions is the ability to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.