|by Woodrow Kroll
Pearl of Wisdom
A man was crossing by foot a barren area in the western part of the United States and was nearly dead from thirst. Unexpectedly, he stumbled across an old, deserted shack with a hand pump out front. At the base of the pump someone had left a tightly sealed jug of water with a note attached. The note read, “Don’t drink this water. Use it to prime the pump. Refill it for the next person.” The man hesitated. He was terribly thirsty and, if by chance the well was dry, he would be pouring out his only opportunity for survival. Finally he decided to take a chance. Slowly he poured the water down the pump and worked the handle. As the last of the life-giving liquid was going down the pipe, up gushed a plentiful supply of fresh water. When the man departed, he left a full jug of water and reattached the note. But he added the words, “Try it. It worked for me.”
Solomon offered the same pearl of wisdom: if you want to drink from the well, you first must prime the pump. This passage is about sowing and investing, giving out and having the faith that God will give back to you in return–someday, if not immediately. That’s why Solomon says, “Cast your bread upon the waters, and you will find it after many days.”
The Turks have a similar proverb: “Do good, throw it into the water. If the fish doesn’t know it, God does.” The idea is that giving is living, living in a way that’s honoring to God. Here’s how it’s done.
Give without regard for rewards
Casting your bread upon the waters is not a give-to-get scheme. Notice that Ecclesiastes 11:1 does not say, “Cast your bread upon the waters today, and God will bring back tenfold tonight.” It’s true that such verses asProverbs 3:9-10 say, “Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” And frequently in God’s Word the Lord promises that when we give, He will respond by blessing us. But why we give is just as important as what we give, and often even more so.
We do not give in order to get. The statement in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over,” is a promise of blessing, not the purpose for giving. We don’t give to get in return; we give because it’s good to give. When we exercise responsible giving, God exercises bountiful blessing.
The word give appears more than 1,000 times in the Bible. Obviously, God considers giving very important.Proverbs 13:7 warns, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” In other words, the person who focuses on getting ends up ultimately with nothing, while the one who majors on giving will have an abundance. The Bible says that when we give, God may make us wealthy, but it may be in ways we could never dream. Giving makes us rich, but we may have little cash to show for it. So why do we give? Why do we cast our bread upon the waters? We do it because it’s right!
A well-known German preacher of the 17th century named August Francke founded an orphanage and took in homeless children right off the streets in Halle, Germany. One day when he was desperately in need of funds to carry on his work, a destitute Christian widow came to his door begging for money. All she wanted was one gold duckte. Because of his own financial situation, he politely but regretfully had to refuse. He just didn’t have it to give to her. Disheartened, this woman sat down and began to weep.
Francke was so moved by her tears he said, “Wait a minute. Let me go in and talk to the Lord about this.” He went into the orphanage, closed the door to his office and began to pray, seeking God’s guidance. As he prayed, he felt the Spirit of God wanted him to give that woman his last gold coin. Trusting the Lord to meet his own needs, he gave her the money. He had no anticipation of anything in response; he just did what was right.
Two mornings later he received a very warm letter of thanks from this widow. She wrote that because of his generosity she had asked the Lord to shower the orphanage with gifts. That same day he received 12 gold coins from a rich woman, and 2 from a friend in Sweden. He thought that he had been amply rewarded for his good deed to this woman, but shortly after that he was informed that Prince Ludwig von Vertenberg had died, and in his will he had directed that 500 gold pieces be given to the orphanage.
This is the attitude that God looks for among His people. He wants us to cast our bread upon the waters, to give without regard to rewards. That pearl of wisdom teaches us simply to do what is right and let God take care of the rest. I’m sure August Francke would say, “Try it. It worked for me.”
It also has worked for Back to the Bible. As you may know, for many years our ministry has been helping deserving students get a Bible education in countries outside of North America so they can be better equipped to serve the Lord. We do this through our International Scholarship Fund. Many friends and supporters of Back to the Bible have contributed to this fund, from which we award partial scholarships to students who remain in their country, or travel to a neighboring country, to train for ministry.
Almost two decades ago, we received a scholarship application from a married student with a young family. David Logacho had been an engineer at a NASA tracking station but felt God was calling him to full-time ministry. He wanted to attend a Bible school in Latin America and return to his native Ecuador to serve the Lord. He met all the qualifications for the scholarship, and he received it. We had never met this young man or his family, but we invested in his future. Some years later, our director for Back to the Bible in Latin America, who also was the Bible teacher on our program La Biblia Dice . . . (The Bible Says . . .), went to be with the Lord. We formed a search committee to ask God to lead us to His choice for a new Bible teacher and director. God led us to David Logacho, who today is heard on 180 stations throughout Central and South America, teaching the Word in Spanish daily just as I do in English. All of that came about because one day Back to the Bible decided to give a scholarship to a young man. When you cast your bread upon the water, you don’t expect such a return. You simply do it because it is right. Yet when we do what is right, God takes care of us. That’s one of the great pearls of wisdom from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Give without regard to adversity
A traveling salesman got off his route one day and was lost on a side road. After driving awhile on a narrow, winding road, he came upon a farmer sitting on the front porch of his old, dilapidated house. The farmer was kind of rough looking, with ragged clothes and bare feet. After the man asked for directions back to the main road, he decided to engage the farmer in some small talk. So the salesman asked, “How’s your cotton doing this year?” “Ain’t got none,” replied the farmer. “Afraid of boll weevils.” “How about your corn crop?” the salesman asked. “How’s it doing?” Again the farmer said, “Didn’t plant any. Feared it’d be too dry.” “Well,” the salesman continued, “how about your potatoes? Are you having a good year for potatoes?” “Nope,” said the farmer, “didn’t plant any ‘taters either. Scared of ‘tater bugs.” “What did you plant?” the salesman questioned. “Nothin’,” the farmer replied. “I jest played it safe.”
Some Christians are like that. They just want to play it safe. They’ve heard of a huge economic crisis coming and they want to be ready for it. Or they want to make sure they have enough money invested for retirement. Who knows how much is enough? Some want to be sure that if they give, it won’t inconvenience them later on. But Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 11:4, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” In other words, cast your bread upon the waters without regard to adversity.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t prepare for the future. Careful preparation is a biblical concept (Prov. 6:6-8;30:25). But too many Christians are giving far too little to the Lord’s work now simply because they lack the faith in God to believe He will meet their needs in the future. If the coming economic crisis doesn’t come, or if you do not live to see it come, will you be better off casting your bread upon the water and trusting God, or hoarding your wealth in an attempt to hedge against hard times? Isn’t God still God during the hard times as well as the good times? Certainly, sometimes it’s more difficult to give than it is at other times. But if you wait for that perfect time to give, chances are you won’t give at all. Eternity is rapidly approaching. Cast your bread upon the waters without regard to adversity, because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the easy thing to do.
Give without regard to time
In verse 6 we’re told, “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Solomon is saying, “You need to cast your bread upon the waters without regard to time.” Sometimes we cast our bread upon the waters when we’re young. We invest in our own future and the ministry God will give us. Lots of people have done that by pursuing an education. Many have used the years of their youth to learn skills that they’re now using for the Lord. That’s casting your bread upon the waters while it’s still morning. But don’t miss this. Casting your bread is not a youthful activity only. You also should cast your bread upon the waters even when you’re older. In my mind, there are two reasons for casting when you’re older.
First, you don’t know how many years God has left for you. There may still be plenty of things He wants you to do. Therefore you’ve got to stay in shape spiritually and you need to keep up with technology. You need to prepare as if you had half your life left. But second, you should cast your bread upon the waters in your older years because it is unlikely that you do have half your life left. Your time is growing short. Your later years are an important time to make an investment in the future, especially in the work of the Lord, because your opportunities become more rare. Remember, what you invest in eternity lasts forever; what you invest in time will only last a few years. Don’t be shortsighted. Solomon says, “In the evening do not withhold your hand.”
Investing in the future
Here’s the great pearl of wisdom from this verse. God calls us to cast our bread upon the waters and let Him bring the return. In essence, He asks us to invest in the future, not knowing exactly what the future holds, and not really expecting anything to come back to us. Is that wise? Like a fox it’s wise. It’s doing what’s right, even though no one may know except God. But He is the great rewarder. He keeps accurate accounts. He pays the highest possible dividend on investments. He wants you to benefit to the fullest extent possible from casting your bread.
Lots of people read good Christian books, listen to Christian programs and get great benefit from Christian resources, but they never give anything back. They never cast their bread upon the waters. They’re looking for what feeds them, but they have no concept of the importance of investing in others. But to conclude where we began, it’s like priming that old pump. You’ve got to pour some water in if you’re going to get some water out.
If the thirsty traveler in the desert can trust a sign left to him by a fellow traveler, you can trust a pearl of wisdom left to you by a fellow traveler. Solomon said, “Cast, and it will come back.” It’s the nature of God to make promises and then make good on His promises. What you invest in time benefits you in time. What you invest in eternity benefits you in time and eternity. Doesn’t it seem strange that we cling so tightly to our “bread” when God’s pearl of wisdom counsels us to let it fly? Cast your bread. Try it, and you’ll find it works.