Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

Take your Bibles with me and turn to Ecclesiastes 11. Ecclesiastes 11. We’ll do the whole chapter tonight so let’s go ahead and read the whole thing:

”1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. 3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty [themselves] upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. 4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. 5 As thou knowest not what [is] the way of the spirit, [nor] how the bones [do grow] in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. 6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both [shall be] alike good. 7 Truly the light [is] sweet, and a pleasant [thing it is] for the eyes to behold the sun: 8 But if a man live many years, [and] rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh [is] vanity. 9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these [things] God will bring thee into judgment. 10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth [are] vanity.”

This is a chapter all about taking risks. Now, we aren’t talking about being stupid and doing things that probably kill you here and have no benefit, we are talking about normal everyday risks and investments.

Probably, the primary thing that Solomon had in mind here is monetary investments, but it also applies to just investing your time and your talents, and there is a lot of wisdom here.

If the last chapter was about living wisely, this chapter is about living boldly.

Now, I want to give you six points tonight. We’ll walk through this chapter verse by verse and try to understand he points that Someone is making.

The first point is found in verse 1:

”Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”

What does that mean?

Well, I’ve read a lot of commentaries on this and it seems like what its referring to is investment. Specifically, a shipping venture.

In the ancient world, one of the best ways to make money in business was to send out a ship on a shipping venture, but there were three problems with it:

  • First, it took forever. Sometimes it would take a year and a half before your ship got back.
  • Second, you were completely at the mercy of the captain and the decisions he made at sea.
  • Third, it was dangerous, a storm or pirates could ruin your whole investment.

So what’s Solomon saying here? Write down number one:

1. There is no investment without risk (and waiting). Invest anyways and reap the rewards later. (1)

The other day, I was eating a granola bar that Amanda had bought me at B & D and on the wrapper I noticed a quote, so I read it. The quote said:

What have you done today that your future self will thank you for?

That’s a good question, isn’t it. The truth is, we ought to be doing some things and yes, taking some risks, for a better future, and we also have to understand that those risks are going to take a long time sometimes.

Take a savings account as an example. I’m not good at saving, but I understand that there are many people who have become comfortably secure just by saving 5-10% of a very small income for a long time. That’s maybe not going out to eat twice a month. That’s a sacrifice. And it takes a LONG time to see a return on that sacrifice, but they did.

It’s kind of like farming. A farmer makes a huge investment in the seed. He could have nearly everything in that seed. He plants it in the ground. He waits and waits and waits. Could be a draught or a flood or bugs. He can’t control that. But he still has to sow.

So I guess what Solomon is saying is don’t let risk or delayed satisfaction keep you from doing something that is worthwhile.

Let’s look at the second verse:

”Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.”

What does this mean? Well it could mean be generous. It could mean, you should diversify. Really, there isn’t a lot of consensus on what it means, but I think it means this:

2. Find something worthwhile and give your self to it. (2)

Or in other words, don’t be a hoarder, be a giver. Remember the parable of the talents. The guy with five talents risked and grew those five talents into ten and got “well done thou good and faithful servant.” The guy with the two talents risked and grew those talents into four and got “well done thou good and faithful servant.” The guy with the one talent buried it. No risk. No loss. But no gain either and he got “Thou wicked servant.”

Don’t just play it safe. Don’t selfishly hoard. Risk and put it out there.

Look at the third statement:

3. You cannot control the circumstances of life. Try anyways. (3)

Verse 3 says:

”If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.”

You know the mayhem commercials. That’s what this reminds me of. There is one where he is in a tree with a saw, sawing off a limb above someones car.

Then it says “Mayhem is everywhere.”

The truth is, you can’t control the mayhem. You can’t make all of the the possible bad things in life go away. The trees are going to fall where they are going to fall and you have no control of it and you don’t know when it’s going to happen. It might rain, it might not, you have no control.

Life is uncertain.

You know what - you can’t control it. Try though you may, you just can’t control the uncertainty of life.
You can’t avoid it either.

What does Jesus say to this? Turn to Matthew 6.

”[Mat 6:25-34 KJV] 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.”

So don’t worry about things you can’t control and don’t wear yourself silly trying to control things you really have no control over.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”

Remember, 2 Timothy 1:7

”For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Let’s look at the next verse, it caries on the theme:

”He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.”

The next statement to remember is…

4. Don’t get caught in the paralysis of analysis. (4-5)

This is talking about the farmer that goes out and checks the weather and says “You know what, it seems like it’s a bit windy today, I’m not going to sow because my grain might get blown away.” Or in harvest he says “I’m not going to reap because it might rain and I won’t get my crop into the barn in time.”

But Solomon says if you are always checking the weather, you will never get the job done.

I think the lesson is…

  • There will always be some potential pitfall that is a good-enough excuse.

These things that the farmer talks about are legitimate issues. Windy sowing days aren’t good. Rainy reaping days aren’t good. But do you know what? Sowing in the wind is better than not sowing at all. Reaping in the rain is better than no reaping.

So Solomon is saying “Just do it.” Find something worth doing and just do it. Don’t wait around for the perfect time. Don’t wait till you feel like it. Stop checking the weather, get off Facebook and do something meaningful.

  • There will always be things you don’t know.
  • Sow anyways.

Charles Spurgeon used this as an illustration for Soul Winning. IF we wait until it’s just right to sow the gospel, we’ll never sow.

5. Work all the time and good things will happen. (6)

6. Enjoy your life, but prepare for your death (7-10)