10 Characteristics of Dateable Men and Women – God’s Casting Call for Your Love Story
Dateable Men and Women – My home church recently began broadcasting on God TV, starting with a series on the book of Ruth. I love this book for several reasons:
- It shows people making really good and really bad choices under pressure.
- It contrasts the character of people who are intentional versus reactionary to circumstances.
- It gives us a picture of what it looks like to be spiritually ready for a mate.
Our pastor commented that Boaz, the hero of the story, was the type of man guys should try to be and the type of man each woman should look for. The statement made me pause and reflect on Boaz the man, and Ruth, the woman and the story.
You can read the full story of Ruth here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth+1
More than a Biblical Meet-Cute
On the surface, the story of Ruth could be a Hallmark movie in the making: Rich, cool, old guy is fun and single, just doing life (picture a bewhiskered Harrison Ford); he bumps into a beautiful girl working in the field… But then there is so much more.
Boaz was a wealthy landowner in Bethlehem at the time of Eli. He was older, well respected, fulfilled his obligations to God and family, and showed kindness to those within his sphere of influence.
A man of weak character could have used Boaz’s power and position to satisfy his lusts with a young widow gleaning alone in in a wheat field to keep her mother-in-law, Naomi, from starving. But Boaz’s character is instead a pillar of strength for Ruth, a lifeline for Naomi, and a paving stone to the fulfilment of God’s grand plan for the redeemer of the world, Jesus.
(Think about that. God can use our faithfulness in his redemption plan for a lost world.)
In addition to its literary significance as one of the oldest and most beautiful short stories ever written, Ruth is also one of the shortest books in the Bible. I encourage you to look up each verse and consider in contrast to the character Boaz displays what you might see instead in a man of weaker character.
Pay special attention to the way he behaves in situations where it would have been easy to abandon or compromise Ruth. (e.g. The threshing floor is essentially a bar /club scene… Ladies – please, please do not try this at home.)
10 Characteristics of a Boaz:
- He is God-centered in words and deeds. (Ruth 2:4&12)
- He is a man of integrity. (Ruth 2:5; 3:12; 4:2-5)
- He is a protector (Ruth 2:9; 2:15)
- He is gracious. (Ruth 2:14)
- He is tender. (Ruth 2:15)
- He is fun. (Ruth 3:7)
- He is self-controlled and honoring. (Ruth 3:13)
- He is generous. (Ruth 3:17)
- He is action-oriented. (Ruth 3:18)
- He embraces his responsibilities. (Ruth 4:10)
Behind the Scenes: Becoming Boaz
If you know much about the Old Testament books surrounding Ruth, you know the historical backdrop is much less Hallmark and much more Game of Thrones. Boaz’s kindness is a beacon in a dark time when men did as they pleased with women; the law of the land was literally, “everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)
So what made Boaz so different from other men of his time?
We don’t know much of Boaz prior to this event. But, Matthew 1:5 establishes through the genealogy of Jesus that Boaz was the son of Salmon (a direct descendant of Abraham) and Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute whose life and legacy was delivered through her faith as she helped the Israelites conquer Jericho. (Joshua 2-6)
It’s possible that Boaz’s profound kindness to Ruth despite her poverty and vulnerability as an outsider was in part a product of seeing his own father’s redeeming love and respect for his mother, Rahab, who was also a stranger in the land of Israel.
But most importantly, Boaz took his orders directly from God, honoring his Father in heaven by fulfilling not only the letter, but the spirit of the law. Leviticus 19:9 commanded that Israelites leave some of their harvest in the field to be gleaned by the poor and the alien (foreigners). Boaz went far beyond mere obedience, cherishing Ruth as one of his own charges.
Boaz was also a mature man; some sources say near 80. The characteristics of Boaz can only come through submission to God’s influence overtime, intentionality, and experience. Boaz was a man of integrity, ready to live out his faith whatever God placed in his path.
Nothing is mentioned of other wives or children, suggesting that Boaz had no progeny. In a time when men killed, raped, pillaged, and collected multiple wives to assure their own legacies, this single man took in a stranger and gave her a child that would carry on her deceased husband’s name, restoring Naomi’s family line and inheritance instead of his own: a selfless act.
The picture we see is of a man who is willing to receive God’s plan for him – even if that appointment is with a greater destiny than his own immediate pleasure or ego.
To the Men:
You can’t be a Boaz if you’re not willing to do what it takes to allow God to build these characteristics in and through you. Your natural character – your ego – is going to collide with God’s truth if you want to become a man of Godliness, kindness, and generosity. You must be prepared to surrender to God’s truth.
Boaz wasn’t looking for a wife, but was prepared to play the role of hero when God presented the opportunity. He didn’t need to go back and fix things in his character but could easily move forward in freedom. Is your heart free? It’s better to prepare now, rather than waiting and expecting outside influences to make changes in you. The outline above of Boaz’s characteristics once on display can surely continue to attract God’s will in your life for a future mate.
Best Supporting Actress
Although the book is named after Ruth, you might have figured out that the leading lady is actually Naomi, Ruth’s mother in law. But it’s the character Ruth displays leading up to her divine date with Boaz that gets her top billing and the role of this Godly man’s love interest.
Because she and her mother-in-law were destitute widows living on the Jewish welfare system, dating was probably the last thing on Ruth’s mind when she first met Boaz. But for single ladies looking for Godly character traits to emulate, here are 10 characteristics of a Ruth ready for her Boaz.
Again as you look up each brief passage, consider how differently a woman of weaker character might have behaved in each situation.
The Character of Ruth
- Faithful/ Feared the Lord (Ruth 1:17)
- Courageous (Ruth 2:2, 9, 22; 3:7)
- Trusting of Wise Counsel (Ruth 3:1-6)
- Hard Working (Ruth 2:7)
- Grateful (Ruth 2:10)
- Devoted to Others (Ruth 2:11)
- Kind (Ruth 3:10)
- Her inner beauty shines (Ruth 3:11)
- Patient (Ruth 3:18)
- Pure-Hearted (Ruth 4:15)
Behind the Scenes: A Princess with a Past – and a Future
Ruth was a widowed, childless, poor Moabite who would become the great grandmother of King David, and ultimately an ancestor of Jesus.
Unlikely matriarchs of the sinless, flawless messiah, the people of Moab descended from an incestuous relationship between Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his daughters after they fled Sodom. (Gen 19:30-38) Most prophetic mentions of Moab in the Old Testament foretell its doom. Moab was faulted for corrupting the nation of Israel with prostitution and idolatry.
Some scholars believe that Ruth held a position of nobility in Moab before marrying one of Naomi’s sons. She likely severed all connection with her own family and idolatrous culture to embrace her new Jewish identity.
Imagine Bethlehem all a-twitter when Naomi (I picture Susan Sarandon), who had left with dignity and a house full of young Jewish princes, returned in rags with nothing but a pagan princess of a daughter-in-law in tow (Kim Kardashian?)
Ruth must have been beautiful. Boaz commands his men to keep their paws off of her and is astounded that she would offer herself to him instead of a younger man.
One more point for Team Boaz
Boaz’s character shines once more in his surprise at her rather forward come-hither. The evidence suggests that his kindness to her was entirely without pretense. He was not kind to seduce or ingratiate himself to her. In fact, she basically had to throw herself at him to let him know she viewed him as husband material.
It would have been much easier for Ruth to go back to her old life when her first husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law died, but it was not God’s plan for her. Ruth commits to a humble life of hard work with her tiny, tattered family and the God of Israel – even if it means starvation.
When Naomi begs her to go back to Moab so that she will have a chance to remarry, she refuses.
Ruth 1:16 “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
She is still celebrated as Judaism’s first convert because she was (according to Jewish texts) even as a woman with no family, better than seven sons of Israel (Ruth 4:15).
To Women who are Waiting for Boaz
Over the years I have heard it said in many circles that woman who don’t have a mate should wait for a Boaz. To be clear, Ruth was not waiting for Boaz as one would wait for their curls to set at the hair dresser. She was serving others and growing in character. Ruth was dedicated to God and her family. She too was at the best place able to receive what God had for her. She was free from her past and wasn’t looking for a husband. Her faithfulness put her in the path of the husband God had for her.
On the other hand, waiting does not have to be a passive thing.
- Waiting can also be a synonym for exercising faith and hope.
- Waiting can be whatever good you do while you trust absolutely that God will work out the things beyond your control.
- Waiting is caring for your children (if you’re a mom).
- Waiting is caring for your own health.
- Waiting is working and/or going to school.
- Waiting is serving your church and community.
- Waiting is enriching your mind and spirit in study.
Ruth certainly did wait in that she kept herself for her husband (who may or may not have existed for all she knew). The very best way for her to not meet Boaz would have been for her to go chasing after some ruddy field hand for a romp in the hay because, hey – what does it matter? It’s not like my husband is going to just suddenly ride up on a white horse, right?
That Moment You Realize it’s a Prequel to your Favorite Story Ever
We like to think we get to write our own love stories. But what if we don’t? A study of Ruth is great for character-building. But it’s not exactly a script for getting ourselves un-single.
What if our plans to marry young and mature through a long, healthy life together, having a highly Instagram-able life full of CrossFit and gender reveals, perfectly coordinated holiday pix, pin-able parenting moments, Caribbean vacations and hot sex with our perfectly buff, tanned, sugared and botoxed spouse… What if those plans are not God’s plans?
But what if by surrendering our plans, we play a part in a bigger story?
Are we willing to surrender our plans even if? Even if it means becoming a widow, a poor person, single and celibate into our 80s, leaving a legacy not of our own, but of God’s – perhaps a legacy that won’t be fulfilled for hundreds or thousands of years?
Ruth is a story of people whose lives did NOT go according to their own plans, and yet they persevered in the face of disappointment, shame, and vulnerability. All three main characters were unmarried and childless at a time when that was considered one of the worst possible outcomes – and yet they were faithful, loving and kind to each other.
Were they in love? Mutually attracted? Happy? We don’t know. But, faithful, loving and kind – yes.
Boaz didn’t overlook Ruth’s past or overcome his own to “score” a young bride. And Ruth very likely did not enjoy a long life with her loving husband. According to tradition, Boaz died shortly after they conceived their only child. But God’s plan was bigger than both of them, and they were obedient to it.
If only we could imitate how un-bitter, trusting, and sweet-spirited these two people were. Neither hardened by life’s circumstances, but remaining willing vessels in the potter’s hands – surrendering their personal stories to Him, and becoming ancestors to our messiah, Jesus Christ.
Whose love story ultimately gets told? God’s! Who ultimately gets married to the love of their lives? Us! The bride of Christ!
This is not a story about self-fulfillment or personal happiness. This is not a story about self at all. This is a story about playing the part we’re given in God’s story. Even when it looks like our own plans may end up on the cutting room floor.
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ready-Davison