Cast your bread on the water

Dec 1, 2017 | INSIGHTS

Loaves of bread

Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen on earth . . .

He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap. (Ecc. 11:1-4)

Or as the CEV puts it, much more forthrightly, ‘Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded!’ [1]

God is generous to those who are generous. He is so faithful! Now that times are getting tighter, though, it is all the more important that we His followers be found faithful too. When times were hard in ancient Israel, it was the Levites who suffered, for they were dependent on the other tribes being faithful in honouring their commitment to tithe to them. Praise God for the multitude of men and women across the world today who are continuing to put the cause of Christ above their own personal profit. May the Lord meet their needs and ours in all ways now at this time and on into the future. He is Jehovah Jireh!

As there is a direct command here, let’s take that word ‘cast’ and see what the Lord may have to say to us through it.

Jesus undoubtedly tells us to ‘cast’ the seed of the gospel no matter how unpromising the response. Time and again, both the reality of His presence in us, and the truth of His word itself, may be making for more of an impact than we realise. I remember making what felt like a very inadequate attempt to share the gospel with a rugby playing member of our university who had less than no interest in spiritual things, let alone any affiliation with the Church.

So far as I could see I got nowhere at all. A couple of years later, however, I bumped into him again – only to discover, to my great surprise, that he was in training for the ministry! He declared that he had ‘never been able to get what I said out of his mind.’ Truly, we never know what we are sowing: all that matters is that we keep sowing!

The yielded heart

The whole demeanour of one who sows is that they spread their hands open wide. It is the opposite of the bunching their fists up and grasping everything tightly. Nearly forty years ago the Lord called me to donate a legacy that had been stored up for me to support the work of God in the persecuted Church in Eastern Europe and North Korea. The amount would have gone a long way to purchasing a small house some years later when the time came that I needed it, but I had cast that seed to the Ruach breath of God. Over the years, God has given back in utterly unforeseen ways – not least in the whole matter of housing!

You can probably think of similar things yourself. By contrast, in Proverbs 30:15, we find a vivid picture of the opposite: a striking comparison with leeches that never have enough, but always want more.

Many of you reading this have been immensely thoughtful and generous in the ways that you ‘cast your bread.’ Jesus greatly honours the fact that you have made, and are making the effort to share what He has given, whether it be much or little in human terms. In the history of the Church, the percentage of those who have been in a position to make significant financial investments has always been a small minority (‘not many of you,’ as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 1:26)! Praise God for the massive amount of good that faithful stewards are used to bring about, all because they are determined to harness Mammon for Kingdom purposes, rather than allowing the spirit of Mammon to dominate and contaminate their lives. (Matt.6:19-21; Luke 12:15, 21; 18:23-25).

When we read of the elders ‘casting their crowns before Him’ (Rev. 4:10) it is clear that their greatest joy is to offer back to Him the best and most beautiful thing the Lord has given them back to Him. Bread sounds a commonplace thing to cast – but is it not in the commonplace that the Lord accomplishes His purposes? Remember the scene in Mary Poppins, where the children came across an old lady urging them to ‘Feed the birds for tuppence a bag.’

What a contrast that episode makes with the wizened banker at their father’s bank, who presses the young boy to invest that same tuppence into the bank in order to turn it into a profit. The film moves on swiftly. The boy resists the pressure and makes a fuss, the father is incensed with the children for doing so, and the children are grieved by their father’s attitude, until they all (no doubt with Mary Poppin’s help!) come to see things more from each other’s point of view, and finally experience family happiness together.

Perhaps casting our bread, then, at its simplest, represents being willing to yield something that we value highly back to the Lord and allowing Him to release it back into the world in any way that He chooses. It is so often when we are prepared to go the extra mile that His greatest blessings flow. We may be afraid to let go of for fear of losing out, but the Scriptures are clear that unless a seed dies it remains but a single seed. It is only when the seeds die that can begin to bear exponential fruit. (1 Cor. 15:36)

What an important concept that verse presents us with! At a time when Corrie Ten Boom urgently required £3000 for a particular project, and only had £1000 to hand, the Lord told her to give it all away! This was not the answer she had wanted to hear! “I don’t think you heard what I said, Lord; I said that we needed £2000!” But the Lord was not willing to lose that particular argument, and Corrie soon came round to doing what the Lord was asking of her. You’ve guessed it: once she had played her part, He provided the whole sum faithfully for her!

God really does notice what we do: and many others reap the blessings of our acts of love and kindness – even many years later. Following her miraculous release from concentration camp through a clerical error, Corrie was always amazed at how well she was looked after received wherever she went around the world on her travels for Him. When she asked the Lord about this one day He replied, ‘It’s because your mother kept open home during the depression of the 1920s, providing soup for the poor and homeless!’  Wow, people’s generosity can extend beyond the immediate generation!

A Roman centurion who was stationed with the Italian Regiment at Caesarea, is another powerful example of just how much God sees and notices people’s almsgiving as well as their prayers. There were plenty of Roman centurions in Palestine who must have deeply resented being posted to a small unruly outlying province, but Cornelius shared generously with those in need and prayed to God regularly. How surprised he must have been one day when he heard an angel of God calling him by name, and telling him that his prayers and his gifts to the poor had come up as a memorial offering before Him! This heavenly initiative, matched by Corenelius’ simple obedience, paved the way for the utterly significant release of the gospel being shared with the Gentiles.

Michael and Esther Ross Watson sacrificially committed themselves to taking on a highly vulnerable woman, including paying the whole of her expenses to enable her to qualify as a nurse. You will be blessed by the talk they gave at the Fire from the Isles conference in Jersey. Love, Encouragement, Forgiveness and Compassion.

To return to the moral of this call to ‘cast our bread on the waters,’ we don’t ‘cast’ in order to get – but the Lord is so generous that in reality this may often happen, for ‘With the measure that we use it will be measured to us’. (Luke 6:38) May the Lord cause us to ‘send out’ (cast) all He asks of us to very good effect.

Let’s pause for a moment and ask the Lord: is there an extra mile He is asking us to do for someone or something?

Is there anything or anyone we should be giving to – or giving more to?

Anything we could usefully give or lend to someone?

Anything we need to die to and ‘cast away’ instead of holding on to too tightly?

One of the strongest words the Lord has ever given me concerns the fact that so many believers are taken up by trivia. Truly we are a generation that have found countless ways to substitute entertainment for discipleship.

We can only imagine how hard it must be for those who are fully involved in sacrificial missionary work (as indeed for those caught up in active military service or working for aid agencies in war torn places) when they return on vacation and see the greater part of society blithely devoting their time and resources on superficialities.

Having been imprisoned for over a decade for his faith, Richard Wurmbrand mourned the vast amounts that Christians in the West spend on unnecessary gadgets and soft furnishings – sums that would have kept his entire fellowship fed. Surveys amongst evangelical Christians in America made the sad discovery that believers actually spend considerably more per year on cosmetics than on giving to the work of mission.

God loves to lead and loves to bless, but do remember to pray before you spend. Do you really need to splash out on an upmarket model of something?

Let’s take the great epithet attributed to the woman at Bethany who poured sweet-smelling nard over Jesus’ head as our guide: “She did what she could!” (Mark 14:6-8) Whenever we are about to spend, ask God. And whenever we feel the urge to give, think of eternity. What we do to others will be given back. We will find our rewards awaiting us in Heaven. It is good to sow generously!

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecc. 11:6)

Often it is the tiny things we do for people that the Lord uses the most powerfully. Just by being there, our life is a witness and a resource that the Lord delights to use. Small acts of kindness can go a very long way. And when the opportunity comes to speak for Him – may we not hold back.

Years ago a man was knocked down by a car in the Nevada desert and lay dying. In his intense agony he remembered how, back in the Sunday school he had attended more than forty years earlier, he was taught that he could be saved by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. In that most precarious moment of his life, he called on the name of Jesus, was healed and became an active preacher. Truly, we never know what we are sowing.

In the last chapter of the Bible we find the Bride (the Church) and the Holy Spirit pleading together to receive the Father’s free gift of love and salvation. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22.17)

Lord Jesus, this day let me write speak pray and think such things that You can see, hear and honour in Heaven.

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. (Rev. 2:26) May the Lord be with you in whatever season you are in and help you to cast your bread and seed most effectively until the time comes when ‘The kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah; and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)

[1] The Amplified version takes a more reflective approach: ‘Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, [that is, be diligently active and make thoughtful decisions], for you will find it after many days.’

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