Wineskins Archive

January 20, 2014

Cast Your Bread (May – Jun 2009)

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by Warren Baldwin
May – June, 2009

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” Eccl. 11:1-2
People today are concerned. They check the stock market reports daily to see if they have made a $1,000 or lost $10,000. They groan as the nation goes deeper into debt. A retired friend of mine has reentered the work force. “My wife and I can’t live anymore on the retirement we saved,” he said.

What is happening? Why is it happening? Will things ever be the way they were when the economy was thriving, business was robust, and the dollar was the standard for the world?

We don’t know. But the writer of Ecclesiastes, called “The Teacher,” says it really doesn’t matter. “Cast your bread upon the waters.” Casting doesn’t mean throwing away, but sending forth, or sharing. It is an act of selflessness and generosity. “Give portions to seven, yes to eight.” That means to be give generously, to share our bread abundantly. Don’t be stingy; cast your bread upon the waters again and again and share with whoever has need.

This advice would be fine in times of economic abundance. If business was booming and we all had surplus, we could give generously of our surplus. There wouldn’t be any problem because we’d still have plenty for ourselves!

But the Teacher doesn’t exhort us to give abundantly just during boom cycles. He says to share generously even when times might not be so good: “Cast your bread upon the waters … for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” In the face of financial uncertainty, when the economy is limping along on bad legs, the Teacher says, “Open your pockets and share, take risks, and show your dependence upon God.”

I remember hearing my parents discuss one Sunday morning how much they would give to the Lord that week. They had ten dollars in their checking account. Dad said, “We don’t have enough to cover all of our bills anyway. Just give the whole ten dollars and we’ll pray something comes in this week.” They gave the contribution and a check did come in. Cause and effect? No. That check may have come in anyway. The lesson I learned was to have faith in God even when it didn’t make sense to.

I don’t know what disaster the Teacher saw coming upon the land. Maybe he was just speaking theoretically. Or, he may have envisioned some actual economic, political, or military disaster. Ancient Israel suffered several horrifying blows in these areas. In either case, he does not allow economic health and certainty to be the basis for our acts of kindness and generosity. Our faith is the basis for that. Even if times are hard and uncertainty assails us everyday in the newspapers, business reports and our paychecks, we can cast our bread because of the faith we have in the Great Provider. We can share and even take risks helping others. The fact that we don’t know what disaster may come is not reason to hold tight and be afraid. It is all the more reason to be bold and trusting in the financial and material help we provide others.

In 1929 a young preacher asked a wealthy member of his congregation for a substantial contribution to help with the church building program. “No way!” the man said. “Several banks have already gone under. There is no way I can risk giving money away now.”

“That is all the more reason to give,” the preacher said. “Your money can help provide a place for all of us to meet. It is a guarantee that your money won’t be lost or wasted.”

“Let’s wait and see what happens to the rest of the banks.”

When Mr. Floyd, that young preacher, told me this story years later he just shook his head and said, “He never gave and he eventually lost all his money. Not only did he lose, but the church did, too.”

2009 may be the best year we have ever experienced as a nation or personally. I hope it is. But, as the Teacher says, we don’t know. One thing we do know is that God will bless us for the bread we cast upon the waters, especially in times like these.New Wineskins
Warren Baldwin

Warren Baldwin lives in Ulysses, KS and preaches for the church there. He attended Freed-Hardeman University, Abilene Christian University and Harding University Graduate School of Religion. He and his wife Cheryl have three children. Their son, Wes, will be starting as a Youth Minister for the church in Cheyenne, WY in June; Jenny is a sophomore at Harding, and Kristin is still at home. The Baldwins enjoy participating in numerous sports and Bible camps together.

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