I wrote on Wednesday here about how church elders should act respectfully towards women. In this post, with all the ongoing revelations and debate about harassment at work, I want to look at a workplace which was a harassment-free space.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful account of how the grace of God works out in the reality of life. There is a poignant moment in the story when Naomi is made aware by Ruth that she, Ruth, has been working in Boaz’s fields. The dialogue between them contains the following:
Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.”’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ (Ruth 2:21-22).
The clear implication is that Ruth knew that Boaz’s field would be a harassment-free zone. It is interesting that Boaz’s fields were known to be a place where women would be safe. This is in contrast to other workplaces where they may well be in danger. Naomi says “in someone else’s fields you might be harmed (v22b). If you’re an employer Boaz provides an example to emulate; your workplace should be harassment-free. This should also be true of our churches. They should be harassment free spaces and the elder have a key responsibility to make them such.
But how was it that Boaz got to have such a reputation. It was not that he had obtained this through creating a male-free zone. Ruth 2:9 clearly indicates that there were men around in the fields during harvest time. So what were some of the things which fostered a harassment-free zone. Let us loo for them in Ruth 2.
- Boaz was a man of substance. In v1b we read that he was a a man of standing. He was a man of strength and courage; an upright man.
- He created a sense of God in his workplace. Let us observe this interaction: Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ ‘The Lord bless you!’ they answered (v4). God was openly and reverently acknowledged on his farm.
- There was an interest in people. Workers were not just numbers on Boaz’s farm. When Boaz enquires of the new girl on the block, the overseer knows immediately who she was (see v.6); he has obviously found out. Moreover, Boaz himself makes enquiries about the girl’s background (see v11).
- Boaz was also proactive in establishing practices which prevented any harassment. He tells Ruth I have told the men not to lay a hand on you (v9b). He did not assume no problems would arise; he took action to make sure no problems would arise.
- It was a caring environment as well. He says to Ruth whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled (v9c)’. Then we see in vv14-16 the detailed arrangements put in place to make sure Ruth was provided for.
Work-place harassment would soon be finished if the pattern of Boaz was followed. Oh what a place this was to work. Boaz had a well-earned reputation.
So if you are an employer or any form of manger are you Boaz-like? Are you creating a harrasmenst-free space for all to work in.
And by the way a lot of this applies to churches. I dealt with how Boaz provides a pattern for how we welcome people in our churches here.