Cast Your Bread, Sow Your Seeds
Pastor KC Liu/Ecclesiastes 11:1-6/Dec 13, 2015
1 Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
2 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3 If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
6 Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well.
I am so grateful for Don and Bryan being here with us. Thank you guys for sharing your hearts. Let’s start with a warm-up game this morning. Any fans of the Lord of the Rings series? How many of you watched the Hobbit? There is scene called 'Dark Riddles', where Bilbo and Gollum are in a cave, and they were competing with each other in solving riddles. If Gollum wins, he gets to eat Bilbo whole. Now I am horrible at riddles, but I know some of you are really good at them. Some of you, like Chris, write your own riddles. Let’s see if we can solve a couple of them right here. Let’s try Gollum’s riddle first. Then Bilbo’s riddle. As I was preparing for the sermon this week, I felt like I was trying to solve Solomon’s riddle. He writes in metaphors that are not very easy to understand. But let’s keep in mind that Solomon is writing so that his readers can gain wisdom and understanding and live right with God.
Let’s open up our Bibles to Ecclesiastes 11. I will read verses 1-6. Verse 1: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.” What does that even mean? Now why would Solomon tell us to cast our bread upon the water? Have you ever done that? The only time that I did that was to feed the ducks in the duck pond by Lollicup. How many of you have thrown bread to feed the ducks there? I know Denny’s dental office is right by the pond. Is Solomon telling us to be kind to animals, and feed ducks? No.
Theologians are divided on this issue. Some say that “cast your bread upon the water” talks about making wise financial investments, and how to make profits in business. The NLT Bible translates it this way, “Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you.” The Bible tells us that King Solomon had a fleet of ships that would return with their gold, silver, and ivory once every three years (1 Kings 10:22). So with the sea trade in mind, some think it’s about shipping goods and selling them overseas. King Solomon was rich because he knew how to do business wisely with other nations. Is this the correct interpretation? Possibly.
There’s another school of scholars who thinks this verse is about Making Beer. Putting grain in the water is the recipe for making your own beer! One scholar wrote that “given the process by which beer was brewed in the ancient Near East, the Preacher is recommending both beer production and consumption in perilous times.” In other words, when the day gets tough, when you get home exhausted, drink beer. Heck, don’t stop there, why don’t we also make beer, sell beer and make a profit! After all, Solomon told us to enjoy our lives by drinking wine in chapter 9! This is so funny. Did you know that many monks brew their own beer to drink and sell so that they can finance their religious work? Here is brand called “Merrie Monk Beer.” Could this be a correct interpretation? The beer lovers are like, Yes! It is!!
Other theologians, such as Eugene Peterson of the Message Bible translate “cast your bread upon the water” as “Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.” The Contemporary English Version says, “Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.” So out of these three interpretations, which one do you think God is trying to teach us as followers of Christ? Financial investment? Beer Production? Or A life of Generosity to those in need? In light of the New Testament teachings of Jesus, my personal conviction is that God is teaching us here to live a life of generosity to those in need. Therefore I will preach the rest of the sermon according to my convictions.
Let’s further study verse 1. How? How will we get back what we give to the poor? Proverbs 19:17 says, “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” Jesus said in Luke 6:38, “give and it will be given to you. …for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
I love the example of Pastor Rick Warren. He is super giving. When he got married, he wanted to play a game with God. He wanted to see if he could out-give God. So as a couple, they increased their tithe by 1% every year. So they gave 11%, 12%, 13%, etc… and eventually they were giving like 30% tithe, which is a lot! The average Christian only gives a 2% tithe. So giving 30% is really radical. Pastor Rick was modeling giving and generosity to his church members, and as a result, his church members are super generous as well, giving large amounts of money for charity work through the PEACE Plan. Pastor Rick was good at Casting his bread. So how was the bread going to return to him?
Well, 10 years ago, he wrote the Purpose Driven Life, and the impossible happened. To everyone’s shock it became the best-selling book in history! Next to the Bible. He made millions upon millions of dollars off his book sales. Why did God bless him so much? Because God knew he would be faithful in giving the money away. And indeed he did. He gave 90% of his profits away to help those in need, and he lives on 10% of his income. That’s called a reverse tith. And he doesn’t take a salary from the church anymore. So technically he is a volunteer Senior Pastor. He is a great role model for us all.
Jesus himself also taught us to be generous to those in need. Matthew 25 says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink….”
I am so glad that Don from Team World Vision is here. They are the dictionary definition of this kind of generosity. Providing clean water for the little ones who are thirsty. Working day and night to provide for them even though these kids will never be able to repay you. But God sees and God will repay. One day Jesus will say to Don, come, inherit the Kingdom because you risked your reputation for me. Come and enter into your Master's house. That's our eternal reward! What is a better reward than inheriting the Kingdom of God? Nothing!
Verse 2 ”Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.”
Solomon says, if there is one opportunity to give to those in need this week, do it. If there are 7 opportunities to be generous to those in need, one for each day of the week, do it and give to all seven. And if the eighth person in need comes to you, be generous to them as well. As much as you are capable of giving, just do it. Who knows what kind of evil will happen to them if we do nothing? Perhaps they will die of hunger or thirst. Perhaps they will be forced to steal food to feed their kids and be put in jail. Perhaps they will have to prostitute their bodies just to put food on the table.
One of my heroes in the faith is Heidi Baker. Born in Laguna Beach, she is a missionary to Mozambique Africa. Back in 1995, Mozambique was one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world due to its civil war. But she was called by God to go to the hardest and darkest and to give her life there. When she got there she drove around the streets to pick up abandoned orphans from the streets and took them in to her own home, and loved them with the love of God. Even though she didn’t have enough money or food supply to feed them, she took them in anyway, trusting that God will provide somehow. And indeed God provided through many people. In times where there was absolutely no food left, God supernaturally multiplied food for them. I think it happened twice in her ministry. Like food that was supposed to feed 5 people ended up feeding 80 people. No joke. Miracles are very real! Heidi is the epitome of serving and giving to 7 & 8, and the multitudes. I had the privilege of studying under her 10 years ago in Mozambique for 3 months. It was truly a life-changing experience.
"If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. 4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." Back then, farmers would look at the direction of the wind and the speed of the clouds to determine if there was going to be heavy rain. Heavy rain will ruin a crop. Farmers must avoid rain and sow at the right time to bear the best crop. But if the farmers waited until circumstances were ideal, with zero wind, zero clouds, they’d never get anything done! There is always going to be some wind, and some clouds. There is always going to be risk. Farmers just have to go ahead and sow anyway. Solomon is saying, don’t be like the farmer who always waits for the perfect conditions. Because it never is perfect, this farmer never does anything! “Waiting for perfect conditions will mean inactivity!”
1. If you’re looking for the perfect church by hopping around different churches, you’ll never join one.
2. If you’re looking for the perfect ministry with perfect people, you’ll never serve in one!
3. If you’re waiting until you have enough money to give, you will never give!
4. If you’re waiting for a certain amount in the bank before you get married or have children, you’ll never get married nor have kids!
5. If you’re looking for the perfect timing and atmosphere to share the gospel, you will never share the gospel!
The point is, the conditions will never be perfect, you have to take a calculated risk and just do it.
Due to time constraints, we will jump to verse 6. "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well". What does the seed represent? Solomon could be talking about real farmers and real seeds. But since we are not farmers, let’s view the seed the way Jesus views it. In Matthew 13:3-9, Jesus teaches about the Parable of the Sowers. And in it he says the seed is the gospel of the Kingdom. It is the Gospel message of Jesus coming as our savior, dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin.
In light of this, we can interpret verse 6 this way: “Wake up in the morning with winning souls in mind. Testify of your relationship with God in the morning, and in the evening don’t slack off in sharing the Gospel. For you don’t know which person will really listen and take the gospel to heart. You don’t know if they will reject the gospel, or believe what you are saying. Therefore, share your faith with them anyways, and leave the result to God". Solomon’s teaching is an identical message to the Parable of the Sower. Perhaps out of 10 people that you share with, only 3 people are open to the Gospel. 7 will just flat out reject what you have to say and might poke fun at you too. But don't be discouraged by the 7 people; they are not rejecting you, but Christ. Instead, rejoice that 3 people will forever be changed because you stepped out in faith and took a risk. I am so glad that my friend Santosh kept sowing seeds into my life back in High school. He never gave up, and just kept sowing for many years. If he never took that risk, I would not be standing here today. In the same way, I want to sow seeds into other people’s lives, and pray that it will grow someday.
In conclusion, God is challenging us all here today: Cast your bread and sow your seeds. Be generous in your giving to the needy, and always try to win souls for Jesus.
I want to give an Invitation: Let’s seek the Holy Spirit to reveal our hearts. Are we are lacking in casting our bread, or sowing our seeds? Would you ask God to help you either casting or sowing? Let us pray.