Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

“Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.” — Ecclesiastes 11:1

Ecclesiastes 11:1

The meaning of this passage in Ecclesiastes has often puzzled people. Translated more literally, it says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” Some think this refers to being generous toward ­others or to teaching people various skills that may take a while to learn. Others suggest that it has to do with trade and economic markets, which may bring a great return on investment. Still others say that, like other parts of Ecclesiastes, this simply describes some of the uncertainties in life.

For example, while some industries and businesses have thrived during the pandemic, others have struggled enormously. And in recent years, extreme weather events—droughts, floods, wildfires, and record-breaking temperatures—as well as social and ­political tensions, have made life alarmingly difficult and uncertain. Recovering or rebuilding could take a long time, and in some respects there may be no return to the way things were before.

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes sug­gests that whatever you do, be aware that it may take a long time before you see results. Overall, Ecclesiastes emphasizes that while life is fleeting and fragile, we live and act with trust, enjoying things that can simply be enjoyed now, and believing that God, not us, guides the outcomes. We take risks, and we may or may not see a return. There are no guarantees—except that God will sustain us.

Lord our God, help us to trust you in all circumstances. Amen.

Bible References

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

Romans 5

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

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