“157 Funniest Mother-In-Law Jokes,” “16 Toxic Mother-In-Law Behaviors That Deserve A Punch in the Face,” “Overbearing Mother-in-Law: 7 Signs and How to Deal.” These are just a few of the titles that were immediately generated when I did a Google search for “mother-in-law.” Within our society, mothers-in-law have become, for many people, either the punch line of jokes or a source of constant friction and angst. This is heartbreaking because it is not at all what God desires our families to be like.

While it’s easy to point the finger, I truly believe that both mothers and daughters-in-law have a role to play in improving these relationships. Keeping in mind that we only have control of our own attitudes and actions, I want us to look at the beautiful relationship between Ruth and Naomi and take note of what we can do to improve these important relationships, regardless of which side of the relationship we are on.


  1. We see in Ruth 1:6-9 and 3:1 that Naomi was mindful of the needs of her daughters-in-law. She wanted only the best for them, even if it took them physically away from her. As our children grow and establish their own families, it’s so hard to watch them spread their wings, but it’s so important that we give them the freedom to lead their own lives.

  2. We don’t know much about Ruth and Naomi’s interactions while their husbands were still alive, but from what we see in Ruth 1:16-17 whatever those interactions, Ruth saw something in Naomi that she wanted to emulate. Naomi had treated Ruth in such a way that Ruth wanted to remain with her and embrace her people, her way of life, and most importantly, her God. If you are a mother-in-law, does the way you treat your daughter-in-law model Jesus for her or put a barrier between her and her Savior?

  3. In Ruth 1:18, we see that Naomi had opinions about what was best for Ruth, and she expressed those opinions, yet she ultimately supported the choice that Ruth made. This would have required that Naomi openly and honestly listen to what Ruth had to say.

  4. Naomi advised Ruth in 2:22, and we see in 3:1 that Naomi’s focus was on Ruth’s well-being, safety, and comfort. It would have been easy for Naomi to try to manipulate or guilt Ruth, keeping the focus on herself, but she did neither. She was genuinely focused on Ruth above herself.


  1. Ruth was fully dedicated to Naomi. We see in 1:10 that both Ruth and Orpah protested that they wanted to stay with Naomi, yet ultimately, Ruth left her family and her home to stay with Naomi. This implies that once she was married, Ruth viewed Naomi as her own family and not just as her husband’s mother.

  2. In Ruth 2:7 and 2:11-12 we see that Ruth worked extremely hard, and she did so to provide not only for herself but for Naomi as well. It would have been very difficult for Naomi to provide for herself, so Ruth did everything she could to ensure that both of their basic needs were met.

  3. When Naomi offered counsel, Ruth listened and obeyed. We see this in both Ruth 2:23 and 3:3-5. Especially verses 3-5 could have seemed very odd to Ruth, coming from a different culture, but she trusted Naomi to know what she was talking about and to have her best interest at heart.

  4. She genuinely loved Naomi and considered her family, which we see in Ruth 4:15-17. In fact, she loved Naomi to the extent that it was clear to all those around them.

When we look at Ruth and Naomi’s interactions with each other, there are many things we can learn and apply to our own in-law relationships. First of all, I believe it is important to note that both Naomi and Ruth were willing to listen to each other. Even if what was being said didn’t necessarily make sense at the time. This doesn’t mean that we always have to do what someone else advises us, but just sit and consider how many times you have felt invalidated because someone wasn’t genuinely listening to what you were trying to say. So many of our relationships would be drastically improved if we were just willing to listen, and I believe this is most important when it’s hard to hear what’s being said.

Additionally, both women were willing to put the other’s needs above their own. Naomi was willing to be on her own in order for Ruth to stay with her family, and Ruth was willing to leave the comforts of her home to stay with Naomi. Once again, this doesn’t mean we have to be a martyr and sacrifice everything we want in life, but it does mean that sometimes another person’s need is greater than our own. We need to be willing to genuinely consider this and take appropriate action when possible.

Finally, the way these women interacted with each other ultimately resulted in their entire family being faithful to the Lord, to the extent that the Savior of the world came through their descendants. Do our kids see Jesus in the way we interact with our in-laws? I understand this can be very difficult, especially if our in-laws are not Christians, but that doesn’t change our responsibility for our behavior and attitudes. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have healthy boundaries in our interactions, but it does mean that even when it’s time to enforce a boundary, it should be done with love and respect.

Sisters, the truth is that our children and grandchildren are watching. They are watching the way we interact with, treat, and speak to our in-laws. They are watching our attitudes and our reactions. What are they seeing? Do they see the love of Jesus in how we treat our extended family members? How amazing would it be if we had an entire generation of Naomi’s and Ruth’s raising Obeds to change the world!

Lacy Crowell
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Lacy Crowell is the Dean of Students at Freed Hardeman University in Henderson, TN. She has been married to the love of her life, Jonathan, for over 20 years. They are blessed with four amazing kiddos whom Lacy has had the privilege of homeschooling. She has also served alongside her husband in full-time ministry for 15 years.  She is a graduate of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her great joy is working to help others become excited about studying God’s word, and helping couples thrive in their marriages. She is a member of the Come Fill Your Cup team and the author of two Bible study books for women: Proclaimed – Jesus the Messiah which is a study of the Gospel of Mark, and Pursued – God’s Plan for Intimacy in Marriage: a study of the Song of Solomon.