Modern technology allows the quick construction of impressive buildings and sturdy bridges. A look at historical architecture, however, reveals that brilliantly engineered designs and structural techniques were used long before computers, factories, or heavy machinery became part of the process. One ingenious building element that’s been around for millennia is the arch.
The ancient Romans perfected construction of the arch, which derives its strength and stability from the mutual support of adjacent stones. As we think about early arched edifices, it’s understandable that the word edification—from the Latin for “build”—is used to describe the way Christians are called to support each other. Taking it a step further, we’re also meant to build each other up. But the only way that works is if, like stones that are all equally important in an arch, we relate to each other with humility and respect.
READ Ruth 1:3-5, Ruth 1:15-17, and Ruth 2:3-16
When Ruth’s husband died, she could have returned to her hometown in Moab to start a new life. In fact, that’s what her mother-in-law Naomi, also a widow, urged her to do. Yet Ruth chose to honor the older woman: She committed to staying with her mother-in-law and helping provide for her needs. What’s more, she chose to serve Naomi’s God. Ruth and Naomi supported each other instead of seeking their own interests, and this mutual edification benefited them both.
After they settled in Bethlehem, Ruth went to gather grain left for the poor (Lev. 23:22) and met Boaz, the field’s owner. As it happened, he was a kinsman of her late husband and, therefore, a potential spouse and provider according to Hebrew levirate law—quite the prospect for a widow with no apparent means of support. Some might have pursued that outcome aggressively, but Ruth remained modest and proper. Though it may seem forward in today’s world, her request for “covering” (that is, protection) was actually respectful, affirming of Boaz, and acceptable by cultural and legal standards. Besides earning Boaz’s admiration and devotion (Ruth 3:9-11), Ruth’s humility brought honor and blessings beyond her fondest dreams. Her descendants would include two of the greatest earthly kings (David and Solomon) and, more importantly, the King of Kings: Matthew 1:5-16 lists Ruth as an ancestor of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.
C. S. Lewis said a truly humble person “will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” Some misunderstand this quality as a state of constant self-deprecation, yet habitually putting oneself down is neither honest nor humble. In fact, false humility actually reeks of self-importance. And that is why we find Ruth’s character inspiring: Her humility was sincere, not contrived or pathetic. Romans 12:3 NLT advises, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves”—in other words, taking into account shortcomings as well as strengths. When we achieve this perspective of who we are, we can see others in the right light and treat them as we should.
There are other examples of humility in the Bible, but one outshines the rest. Read Philippians 2:1-11. After reminding us to be humble and selfless, Paul presents a model we cannot ignore: Jesus Christ, the embodiment of ultimate purity, holiness, power, glory, and authority, made Himself nothing for our sake. Why? Because of His great love for us. Because our salvation was more precious to Him than His glory.
REFLECT + EXPLORE
• How might Ruth’s story have developed if she hadn’t chosen to follow Naomi? if she had conducted herself differently in Boaz’s field and in his presence?
• How did Naomi help Ruth make wise decisions in her relationships?
• What impact might Ruth’s attitude have had on others around her, such as Boaz’s employees?
• In light of Ruth’s example, explain how these passages affirm the importance of edifying one another:
Romans 14:19 and Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 6:1-10; Ephesians 4:25-29; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15; and 1 Peter 5:1-6.
• We live in a world that relentlessly urges us to do what’s right for us. We’re encouraged to pursue whatever feels good, gives pleasure, or ultimately fulfills dreams, even if it means tossing out something we think no longer suits us—whether a job, relationship, responsibility, or even our moral compass. How do you (or will you) resist that message?
• What circumstance in your life makes it hard to speak in a humble manner or behave in a way that isn’t self-seeking? Think of principles you can draw from the examples of Ruth and Jesus that would have practical application to this situation. How can you build up the other person or people involved?
• Ask God to reveal how you can be like one of the supportive stones in an arch.
• To more fully appreciate the biblical idea of humility, slowly read through the book of Ruth this month (just one chapter per week). Jot down your observations about Ruth’s character, attitude, speech, and behavior.
• Memorize Philippians 2:3-4 and meditate on the passage. Over the next month, look for people who exemplify these verses, and observe the results of their humility and their interest in others’ needs. Pray for them and acknowledge, either verbally or in writing, the inspiration they are to you.
• Consider how you will “pay forward” the kindness, generosity, or compassion you see in others. Share the results with friends, and encourage them to join you in being an “arch support.”