Two types of people are contrasted here. There is the gracious woman and the ruthless man. They are viewed from what they attain in life. The word "attain" is important here for it refers to what a person grasps or holds. The gracious woman seeks for honor, while the ruthless man is seeking riches.
The rich man is called "ruthless." This is the Hebrew word "ariys" which means to be ruthless, strong, and violent. The word usually refers to a ruler, kind, or master who behaves ruthlessly toward those under him like a tyrant. This person is insolent, proud, haughty, and violent. As a result the general attitude toward him by those around him is fear. This ruthless man does not care about true honor or respect. He rules by fear, intimidation, and an overpowering hand and demeanor. What he wants is not repect - but riches. And what we read here is that he grabs all he can get - and attains those riches. Anyone who follows politics and those who wield power in the financial world knows that there are a myriad of men who get their riches by less than favorable means. They dominate others and often do dispicable things. In the process they get a lot of money. What is not told often enough is that even though they have the money - they do not have peace, joy - and often cannot sleep because their lack of character costs them dearly. They wind up as the typical rich, lonely, miserable old man - whose only friends are the sycophantic ones who stay only to feed on the corpses of his corporations and bank accounts. There is little love lost or tears shed when he dies.
The gracious woman is seen in stark contrast to this rich, ruthless man. One of the best pictures of this gracious woman is Ruth. She faced an uphill battle her entire life. When her husband died, she was left with nothing - except a sister-in-law who was a widow too - and a mother-in-law whose life was shattered. Ruth chose to be gracious every step of the way. Her daily existence in Israel, when they moved back, was spent gleaning in fields that were not hers living on the kindness of others. In the midst of all this she was the most gracious of women - not complaining of her circumstances or of the back-breaking work she endured for an entire harvest. She and her mother-in-law endured a very meager existance that entire Fall - yet no griping was heard from Ruth. She was the picture of a gracious, godly, quiet-spirited woman. She worked hard and was grateful for everything she received.
In the end, Ruth was seen as a woman of honor. Even though she was a foreigner and a Gentile, she was seen in the community as a highly honorable woman. She followed customs that were not her own - being obedient to a mother-in-law in the process. Her graciousness was honored in the end though. She was given a new husband - a godly, wealthy, wonderful man named Boaz. Although starting at what had to be the very bottom of society in Israel - God gave her honor in two ways. There was her new husband Boaz - who was a gift from God. There was even a greater honor - and that was her great grandson. His name . . . David. Honor comes to a gracious woman - and that lasts much longer than the riches of the ruthless man. If you do not believe that - just ask Nabal, the rich farmer or the rich man in the gospels. Their ruthlessness gained them great riches - for a short season - followed by an eternity in punishment and pain.