Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.…
It does not seem to be a very lofty precept in the Preacher's sense of it. He does not intend by it what we might mean by Christian charity, but rather a doing what you can with your own interests in view. Make your kindness a sort of investment. Be kind in every way you can, even in most unlikely ways, because they may turn out unexpectedly to be profitable to yourself. But we shall take the precept in a higher light, in the light of our Lord's teaching, as when He said, for example, "He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."
1. No work done in Christ's name is ever in vain. The tenor of all Scripture is in harmony with that. God's word shall not return unto Him void. And Jesus said that the giver even of a cup of cold water in His name should not be without his reward. The great waste of loving labour in human history, labour spent on unworthy causes, has often been remarked upon. Mark Rutherford gives as an instance the love and sacrifice that were lavished on the Jacobite cause. The devotion to that cause on the part of many was wonderful. The Jacobite songs still live because they breathe a fervour of loyalty and a strength of attachment which were vividly real in their day. But the cause is a lost one. It is all love's labour lost, and it is pathetic to think of the waste of love connected with it. Not so is it with the cause of Christ. What an amount has been spent on that cause in the course of the ages! What an amount of sacrifice made and suffering borne and loving labour endured! Useless, fruitless, we might have said many a time and oft. But not one of Christ's countless followers would have recalled one jot or tittle of it all — not in the midst of their toil and travail, not in their final hour, and not assuredly now when they stand around the throne. From the very first it brought to them an immediate return in soul-satisfaction. It brought what the world could neither give nor take away. It was a saying of Cromwell's that "he goes furthest who knows not where he is going." It is not business-like to know not whither you are going, and he is not likely to go far who should enter upon business in that fashion. But in the spiritual realm it is different. The great thing there is to follow the Divine leading, and to sow even though it be in tears, trusting Him, who gives the command, that all will be well, and that in His own good time there shall come a reaping time of joy.
2. The text suggests to us also the blessing that may be hid in delay. It is not best for our spiritual life that we should always get immediate returns for our labours. The transaction which is done to-day, and whose results can be pocketed to-morrow, is not usually of the kind that gives strength and beauty to the character. Macaulay objected to school-prizes because the reward was too immediate. The true reward of hearty study comes to be realized only after many days. Is it not so also in business? The man who prospers too easily is not likely thereby to develop the finest type of character. In spiritual work immediate and abundant reaping tends sometimes to be productive of spiritual pride, to a man's own undoing and to the undoing, probably, of the work itself. The noblest Christians are those who most markedly have in their patience won their souls.
(J. S. Mayer, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.