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  • Denise Kohlmeyer

THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE GRAPEVINE



Boaz: “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” (Ruth 2:11)

 

Boaz: “All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” (Ruth 3:11)

 

 

When I read these verses about what Boaz heard about Ruth, I’m struck by how the gossip grapevine worked favorably, which is typically not the case. The grapevine usually is vicious, and has devastating, humiliating, and sometimes dangerous effects for the person being talked about.

 

But in Ruth’s case, she was on the right side of the grapevine. She did only what people could commend. She did nothing to get the small-town tongues wagging viciously or maliciously about her. Rather, the tongues wagged favorably and unrelentingly, it seems, until the entire town knew of her reputation.

 

“Did you hear? Ruth, the Moabite woman, is Naomi’s...I mean, Mara’s daughter-in-law. She left her country and her family to follow Mara back here to Bethlehem after her husband died.”

 

“I did hear that. I also heard that she’s gleaning in Boaz’s fields to support Mara. Who does that?! But isn’t that amazing?”

 

“It is! I just hope bitter ole Mara is grateful she has someone to look after her like that.”

 

“That Ruth, she’s a wonderful woman. Such a noble character.”

 

Yes, the village grapevine was hard at work. So much so, that even Boaz, a wealthy man overly busy with business concerns, no doubt, even heard about Ruth. And what he heard was good, honorable, and pleasing to him. He was so impressed, in fact, that upon meeting Ruth for the first time, he pronounced a blessing upon her. “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:12).

 

That blessing turned out to later be Boaz himself, when he became the “wings” (metaphoric for protection) under which Ruth (and Naomi by association) found herself when he made her his wife.

 

When I read this account in Ruth, I immediately think: what does a person do (or not do) to warrant becoming the subject of a grapevine, because gossip tends to start when the character or behavior of a person attracts the attention of others. In Ruth’s case, it was her “noble character,” her righteous and benevolent conduct toward her mother-in-law, that caught people’s attention. It was so outstanding and unusual, given Ruth’s background, that people noticed. And they couldn’t help but talk about it. In a good way!

 

From Ruth we see that, to borrow a phrase that many schools adopted in the early1990s, character counts! And whether we like it or not, the grapevine—whether at school, work, or in our neighborhood—is the communicative line through which our character is talked about.

 

God affirms this “character counts” theme in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Ruth loved her mother-in-law, so much so that she willingly left everything she knew to be with her, and then took up the heavy mantle of supporting her however she could.

 

We see again in 1 Peter 2:12, this theme: “Keep your conduct among the [unbelievers] honorable....so they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

 

Christian character counts! Our unconditional love for everyone (yet not at the expense of God's truth) and our Spirit-sanctified conduct will be noticed, and it will be talked about. Therefore, let us be ever more mindful to behave in such a way that it brings only commendation, praise, and glory to God. That we behave always on the right side of the grapevine.

 

Be blessed. Be encouraged.

 

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