Total Commitment and Generosity

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.”

- Ecclesiastes 11:1–2

All or nothing—that is the commitment our Lord demands. Love with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the only appropriate response to the only true God, who is the Creator of all (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 22:37–38). It is also the right way in light of the unpredictability of our lives. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to us; today might be the last day we have to serve God. We cannot think that putting off total commitment now means we will get another chance to commit ourselves to Him in the future.

Scripture exhorts us to full commitment to God in many different ways, and the book of Ecclesiastes does so by emphasizing the vanity or fleeting nature of life (Eccl. 6:12; 9:9; 11:8). The idea that life passes quickly lies in the background of today’s passage, wherein we are told to “cast [our] bread upon the waters” so that we will find it after many days (11:1). This image comes from seafaring commerce, where ships are sent out to sell goods and receive a return. In the ancient world, it could take a long time to gain a profit from overseas trade because travel was slow and laborious. But the merchant had to take the risk and send all his goods to other ports if he was to survive. He had to go “all in,” as it were, on his venture; otherwise, he would not benefit. Essentially, the Preacher here exhorts us to commit ourselves totally to the enterprise of serving God. Life is short, and there is no time for procrastination. We must serve the Lord fully today if we are going to serve Him. There may be no tomorrow for us, as death comes quickly to all.

The commercial imagery has also led commentators to see in today’s passage an exhortation to generosity and to trusting the Lord with our finances. So, Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 includes financial matters within the scope of its teaching. We are to invest in the kingdom (cast our bread), knowing that the returns God provides will far outweigh our sacrifice (v. 1).

Moreover, as we are able, we are to help those who are truly in need. Today’s proverb includes a call to “give a portion to seven, or even to eight” (v. 2), a metaphor exhorting us to give cheerfully and eagerly to help those in need. In light of the text’s commercial metaphors, verse 2 also encourages us to work zealously with all our might. We must be generous and work hard, for we do not know “what disaster may happen on earth.” Events to come might result in our having less to give or might make it difficult to profit from our labor, so we must work and give while we can, before unanticipated problems force us to cut back.

Coram Deo

God will have all of us or He will have none of us. There is no such thing as halfhearted commitment to the Lord. Until the Lord returns, we will fall short and sometimes try to hold some things back from His control. But true Christians will have the direction of their lives oriented in the main to serving God with all that they are. They serve Him eagerly, and they are continually repenting for whatever they might try to hold back from His lordship.

Passages for Further Study

1 Kings 17:8–16
Malachi 3:6–12
Mark 10:29–30
Ephesians 5:15–16

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