Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.…
I. A PRECIOUS DEPOSIT. That which is to be parted with is not "seed" merely, but "bread," i.e. in an anticipative and inclusive sense. If the husbandman would have increase he must sow again in faith, and commit himself to a watchful Providence. In commerce, too, it is exemplified: a man invests in land or in bonds which have no present market value; but his business sagacity tells him they will have in the course of years, and if he himself may not benefit by the venture, his son will. The capital the manufacturer sinks in plant, etc., has the same significance. It is in the realm of ideas, in fact, that the saying is most manifestly verified. The thinker stakes his reputation, comfort, life even, upon the realization of his doctrines, which are the most cherished embodiment of his spirit.
II. AN UNCERTAIN RECEPTACLE. "Upon the waters." The text seems to encourage an almost wanton openhandedness in beneficence. Is it so? If there is one phase of traditional alms-giving which the modern spirit deprecates more than another, it is its indiscriminateness. We not only desire to certify to ourselves the fitting objects of our compassion, but to follow them into the actual surroundings of their daily life, that the ultimate aim of our assistance may be secured. "When the starving man has been relieved, modern charity inquires whether any fault in the social system deprived him of his share of nature's bounty, any unjust advantage taken by the strong over the weak, any rudeness or want of culture in himself wrecking his virtue and his habits of thrift." To this we have to reply that —
1. Neither this nor any other Scripture forbids inquiry. It would, on the contrary, be true to the genius of Christianity to satisfy ourselves as far as possible that our alms is well bestowed, and that it is given in such a way as to secure the utmost advantage to the recipient.
2. When every practicable security has been taken charitable help and spiritual service will still be attended with much uncertainty. The methods of the mathematician are not applicable to Christian enterprise to any appreciable extent. No one can pretend to be an infallible reader of char-actor.
3. It is often the duty of the Christian to work and to give even when he cannot be certain as to results.
III. A CERTAIN RETURN.
1. "After many days" — a sober promise, but true to the law of Moses. Even in this life, according to the Decalogue, the reward was at least to begin. Late or soon it is sure to come to all who are earnest and unselfish. God never loses sight of our "work of faith."
2. "Shall find" — therein consists the romantic interest of the spiritual venture. What will it be for some who have laboured in the Church on earth with scarce any visible result, but whose welcome to heaven will be from the tips of one born here and another born there through services that seemed without fruit!
(A. F. Muir, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.