Choices And Not Just Desires Have Consequences
Then Bo′az said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Na′omi, you are also buying Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the dead, in order to restore the name of the dead to his inheritance.” Then the next of kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
In the closing chapter of the Book of Ruth, before Bo’az could take Ruth as his wife and purchase from Na’omi the lands that belonged to her dead husband, another of her near kinsman held a superior claim to the property—and that man wanted the property.
Yet to acquire the property, he also had to acquire Ruth, who was the widow of Na’omi’s son. This was commanded by Mosaic law, to preserve the inheritence claims upon parcels of land as they were handed down between generations.
For reasons wholly his own, Na’omi’s near kinsman was not willing to complete the purchase if Ruth was a part of the purchase price. As the man stated in the quoted verse above, to do so posed a risk to other inheritence claims he had, and while he desired Na’omi’s property, he did not desire that property so much that he was willing to toss other properties away as a consequence of seeking to possess this one parcel of land.
Na’omi’s near kinsman knew the choice he wanted to make. This man knew also the potential consequences of making that choice. This man decided that those consequences made the choice not good for him. He wanted the land, but not at the price of taking Ruth as his wife, and doing the duty of next of kin. For reasons we are not told—for reasons we do not need to be told—that price was a price too high.
For the closest of Na’omi’s kinsmen, the desired choice came at too high a price. The desired choice came with undesirable consequences.
Choices invariably have consequences, and not always desirable consequences. Even when—perhaps especially when—the choices are very desirable, the consequences can be quite undesirable. This is always the nature of choice—the consequences arise from the choice and not merely from our desire.
We might desire to eat ice cream every day. Yet unless we choose to eat ice cream every day our bodies will not have to grapple with the consequence of unnecessary weight gain.
We might desire to drink beer every day. Yet unless we choose to drink beer every day, our livers will not have to contend with the consequence of alcohol abuse.
We might desire to quit work even without another job in the offing. Yet unless we choose to just quit a job, we will not have to contend with the consequences of not having a paycheck.
We might desire to spend our money recklessly. Yet unless we choose to spend recklessly, we will not have to contend with the consequences of not having any money saved up for a rainy day.
We all have things we desire. Very often we find ourselves in a position to choose whether or not we will gratify a desire. Very often we come to a moment we we can choose our desire—or not.
If we are wise, as Na’omi’s near kinsman apparently was, we will weigh the consequences of choosing to gratify a desire before we make that choice. If we are wise, we will shy away from choices with undesirable consequences, or at least choices with “too many” undesirable consequences.
If we are wise, we will weigh the consequences and not be distracted by how we come to be aware of those consequences.
Bo’az could hardly to have been said to be defending Na’omi’s near kinsman’s inheritance options when he mentioned Ruth to him. When one reads the Book of Ruth, it is plain by the start of the fourth chapter that Bo’az desires Ruth.
It does not take an overwhelming amount of cynicism to recognize that Bo’az very likely had his desire for Ruth as an ulterior motive behind reminding Na’omi’s near kinsman about the strings attached to Naomi’s parcel of property. It does not take any cynicism at all to realize that, regardless of Bo’az’ particular motives, that consequence to Na’omi’s near kinsman is not changed merely because Bo’az is its messenger.
The encumbrances on Na’omi’s property were there regardless of whether Na’omi’s near kinsman thought to inquire after them or not, or whether Bo’az mentioned them or not. The encumbrances on Na’omi’s property were there because of how inheritence claims are handled under Mosaic law.
Consequence proceeds from choice, and not merely from desire.
Ultimately, both Bo’az and Na’omi’s other near kinsman made choices based not merely upon their desires, but also upon what consequences were likely to follow. Ultimately, both men ended up with outcomes that, even if not wholly desirable, were at least entirely acceptable.
Na’omi’s other near kinsman might not have achieved a property that he desired, but he at least did not damage his other inheritances and property claims. Bo’az, of course, by pointing out the encumbrances on Na’omi’s property, not only was able to achieve his desire (Ruth), but was able to do so honorably and openly, in front of witnesses.
If we are wise, and choose as these men did, weighing not merely desire but also consequence, we can likewise expect outcomes that will be at least acceptable.
By moderating our choices in this fashion, we may not satiate our every desire, but we will at least avoid outcomes we would find most undesirable. Surely that is the beginning of all wisdom.
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