Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.Ecclesiastes 11:1
The idea expressed here is one of openhanded generosity. Give freely, wisely, and generously to the needs of those about. This phrase,
Cast your bread upon the waters, was a proverb in Israel for what looked like wasteful expenditure. No one would take good bread and throw it in the river. But here we are enjoined to do that very thing. This is not encouraging us to be spendthrifts, to thoughtlessly and carelessly give away our money, spending it like a drunken sailor. What is meant is, be willing to take a chance where a real need is evident.
When you see people in need, though you do not know how they are going to use your money--it may not be apparent that they will even use it wisely--nevertheless, be generous.
Cast your bread upon the waters, for in the wisdom and purpose of God it may very well return to you some day when you are in need of help. I could relate several stories of people who helped strangers; then, at some later time when they found themselves in serious trouble, that person or that deed reappeared in such a way as to help them in their time of need.
Also, give as widely as possible:
Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land (Ecclesiastes 11:2). That is not limiting us to how many we should have on our help list. This Hebrew idiom,
Give portions to seven, yes to eight, was a way of saying,
Give to as many as you can, and then some. Be generous. You do not know what evil may be averted by your gift.
There follow reasons for this kind of generosity in verse 3:
If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie.
First, we are to give generously because it is the natural outflow of a full life, like clouds that are filled with rain and empty themselves again and again upon the earth. A life that is full of the blessing and grace of God ought to shower others with that blessing. Remember the words of Jesus,
Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). We are to give because it is the natural outflow of a life that is already filled with the blessings of God, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally as well.
The second parable about the tree falling to the south or north is somewhat more difficult, but I saw a motto in someone's kitchen that captures exactly what this idiom is saying; it was the slogan
Bloom where you are planted. That is, it is God who controls the fall of the tree out in the forest; whether it falls to the south or the north is within the scope of divine providence to determine, but where it falls, that is where it is to be. This is Solomon's way of saying to us,
Where God has put you, in your present circumstances, that is where you are to give. Meet the needs around you. That does not always mean geographically. You may be in touch with someone halfway around the world whose needs you are aware of, but God has brought that to your knowledge so that you can meet that need.
Thank You, Lord, for all that I have. Help me to cast my bread upon the waters, to give boldly and in faith that needs will be met, and blessing will come in Your way and in Your time.
Giving is a way of relieving need, but oftentimes needs are not expressed because people in their pride hide their needs. Do we have a sensitive spirit of generosity?