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The The’s

Click here to read Ruth 1 on BibleGateway.com

the“So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite.” Ruth 1:22

Q: What do Ivan the Terrible, Winnie the Pooh and Oscar the Grouch have in common?
A: The same middle name.*

Have you ever noticed how much we love to classify people?  We subconsciously (at least, hopefully subconsciously)  give everyone a “the” after their name; the more subtly insulting the better. Look around church sometime; what do you see?  Bill the Whiner hovering around the thermostat; Becky the Snooper looking sideways to see what Dave the Distracted is doing on his phone during the sermon; Roger the Troublemaker standing in the foyer- hinting to Ezekiel the Easily Convinced that the new Youth Pastor might have been listening to hip-hop; Michael the Arrogant sharing his latest views on the Second Coming with the visitors in the parking lot. We like to put people into little boxes, it makes it so much easier to sort them for purposes of friendship, dating, and snubbing.

Unfortunately, we see ourselves the same way.  We look in the mirror in the morning, and all we see is our own “the.” We see “The Divorced,” “The Adulterer,” “The Addict,” “The Alcoholic,” “The Friendless,” “The Lonely.”  Our circumstances and our sin becomes our identity. We don’t see ourselves as a person who made a mistake; we see ourselves as “The Mistake.”

TURN THAT THE UPSIDE DOWN

Ruth could have seen herself the same way.  She was already known as “Ruth the Moabitess.”  So what, you say? That’s just her country, you say?  Yes and no.  Moab was her country, no doubt, but Moab was not just any country, at least not to Israelites.  Moabites were descended from Moab (go figure), who was a son of Lot, Abraham’s nephew.  More importantly, he was the son of Lot and Lot’s daughter.  Goo.   To the Israelites, all Moabites were sinful, perverse, inbred, and rejected by God because of where they had come from.  Of all the “the’s” out there, they had most of the bad ones you could think of.  And now here comes Ruth to Israel, to God’s holy land; widowed, foreign, destitute, forsaken.  “The Moabitess” could have been Ruth’s identity.

But it wasn’t.  She didn’t allow herself to wallow in self-pity or anger or bitterness.  She chose.  Chose to follow God, chose to care for mother-in-law, chose to put her own desires and needs behind that of others.  She continued to do right and trust God, despite all the “the’s” she could have been. And everything changed.

BEYOND THE

Want some good news? Your “the” can change; we don’t often refer to Ruth as “the Moabitess” in church.  We talk about her faithfulness to Naomi, her hard work in the fields, her boldness, and her enduring legacy.  She not only was the great-grandmother of the greatest king of Israel, but ultimately from her line came the King of Kings.  It was a “the” greater than anything she hope or ask for.

Our faithfulness to God is what determines our “the,” not our past or what others may think.  You can become “the prayer,” “the giver,” “the worshipper,” “the generous,” “the faithful,” “the whatever God wants you to be.”  You can become that “the” today.  All that we’re asked to do is remain faithful, to seek God, and to love others.   And all these “the’s” will be added unto you.  Your future “the” does not have to be the “the” you are now.

Who knows what lasting impact you may have?

* Yes, it’s an old joke. Got a problem with that?

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