The value of Ruth-like qualities
A Christian Science perspective: The biblical story of Ruth shares a tender story that helps us today.
Years ago I was flipping through the channels on my television and landed on a scene of a woman describing the definition of the word “ruthless.” She defined it as “behavior with the absence of the qualities of Ruth.” The comment came to me again as a thought-provoking idea because of the prevalence of the word “ruthless” in many news reports recently.
For those unfamiliar with the Bible’s book of Ruth, it shares a story of a widow who compassionately follows her mother-in-law, Naomi, to her late husband’s home country of Judah. Though Naomi tells Ruth to go back to her parents’ house, Ruth has come to appreciate and love Naomi as well as Naomi’s religion, and this is so meaningful to her that she refuses to leave her.
Ruth says to Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go: and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
In Judah, Ruth graciously and tenderly supports Naomi and herself by trusting in God. These qualities that Ruth expressed are what the TV scene called to my attention. They are spiritual qualities, such as compassion, unfailing devotion, respect, grace, honesty, integrity, generosity, wholesomeness, virtue, honor, and kindness to name just a few.
Such spiritual qualities are vitally important for our world as we yearn to achieve peace and harmony. But where do these qualities come from? Through her deep study of the Bible, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, learned that these qualities come from God, divine Mind. She refers to each of us as God’s child. Using the generic term “man,” she writes in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Man is the offspring, not of the lowest, but the highest qualities of Mind” (p. 265).
The divine Mind is the source of all spiritual qualities, knowing, and expression. All of us, then, as the offspring, or children, of God, must naturally possess, and can express, these qualities. You might say, then, that in our true nature as the reflection, or image of divine Love, each of us is Ruth-like, not ruthless.
Christ Jesus referred to God as the source of these spiritual qualities when he responded to a man who addressed him as “Good Master.” Jesus said, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18).
Recognizing Christlike attributes as having their source in God authorizes all of us to hold this spiritual model as our model of good behavior. It is not idealistic, but actually pragmatic, for each of us to practice with every opportunity, in moments big or small, responding to human circumstances with harmony, patience, grace, humility, gratitude, and the recognition of God, good. Such a response will bring another moment of peace to our world. And these moments add up.
Here’s a small example from my own family. I loved and admired my aunt for her many fine attributes, but she was disappointed with her son’s choice in a marriage partner, and this resulted in an unhappy relationship between her and her son (my cousin) that lasted for many years.
Once when I was visiting my aunt, she gave me a diamond ring that had belonged to her mother. She said she wanted me to have this ring. While it seemed reasonable and I was flattered to receive it, somehow I intuitively knew this wasn’t being given with the right motives. There was no arguing with her about accepting the gift, so I took it.
Several years later at my aunt’s funeral, her son and family invited all attendees of the service back to their home. During this visit, I pulled my cousin aside and gave him the ring his mother had given me. He was relieved to know the whereabouts of the ring. He told me that my aunt had promised the ring to his wife.
After some discussion about its rightful ownership, he accepted the ring. While I could have been justified in keeping the ring, I knew it was right to give it back. After this occasion, a tender, loving, and lasting friendship developed between me and my cousin, where before our relationship had been distant and indifferent.
So expressing “Ruth-like” spiritual qualities made a big difference in my life. Every effort or demonstration, whether big or small, makes a difference.