Day 27: Casting our bread upon the waters (11:1)
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (11:1).
“Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night. When the clouds are full of water, it rains. When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls. Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life. Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, So you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does. Go to work in the morning and stick to it until evening without watching the clock. You never know from moment to moment how your work will turn out in the end.” (11:1-6 MSG.)
Anyone who has literally thrown bread upon water will likely have found it had dissipated after not too many minutes. Many modern paraphrase Bible versions will add its own interpretation of what the original language meant. From what we can make out, “cast our bread upon the waters” is tantamount to doing something good or taking a risk, usually without expecting very much in return. And if we do that and maybe buck the trend, rather than simply maintain the status quo and finding all sorts of excuses to procrastinate or do little that truly matters, we will do something that truly makes a difference, even if we can’t see how.
By way of elaboration, the Preacher makes sober observations and gives salutary advice on how we should conduct ourselves. As another paraphrase puts it: “Put your investments in several places – many places even – because you never know what kind of bad luck you are going to have in this world”. (11:2 GNT.) We are told not to hang around waiting for the perfect moment that may never come, because, using a farming metaphor, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything. Life is a mystery and none of us know how things will turn out (harking back to an earlier observation). As for understanding, what better than the comparison with that of a baby developing in a mother’s womb – we just don’t know. We are encouraged simply to get to work regardless of external happenings and to return to farming, we should sow in the evening as well as the morning, because we don’t know which one, either or both, will yield the harvest. While there is a place for watching and dreaming (and of course praying, and not to forget the need for wisdom), these are no excuse for putting off doing and the reason we do is so we can bless others. Be like great people of the past who did great, good despite the obstacles, because they cast their bread upon the waters.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may we be those who cast our bread upon the waters. We thank you for the promise of a great return, even if figuring out is beyond us.