I still like the semi-quirky verbiage of the King James Version. I especially enjoy its translation of Ecclesiastes 11:1. “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” In most commentaries, “bread” is explained as “the stuff from which bread is made”–grain of one kind or the other. “The waters” could be anything from rivers to flooded fields. In all versions, The Preacher seems to be advocating unrewarded generosity.
That ideal brightens my older spirit. This verse might describe the lives of older people like you and me. At our age, we’re able to do both the bread-casting as well as the finding-of-bread. The passage may also express the meaning of fullness-of-life in our later years: We can remain generous even as we approach the end of our lives, and we can also look for some of the results of our earlier generosity in perhaps-surprising places.
This bread-casting-and-finding may also be one way to describe all of life, at any age: Giving away valuable bread/seed even if we are not sure what’s going to happen as a result. (“The waters” don’t guarantee good results from our generous seed-sowing!) Another way to say this: Each of our lives is like bread cast on the waters. We seed the future.
This passage brings me comfort when I’m not sure about what has come from a lifetime of giving myself to ministries whose final outcomes didn’t look too promising. The promise here is very specific: Finding good results (a harvest?) will happen in due time! That’s reassuring to know.
This passage motivates me to continue casting bread and–with gratitude to God—to start looking for that bread to show up in others’ lives.
“Bread on the waters…” Good words to describe the fullness of my years!
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