Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2
Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.
There can be little doubt that these admonitions apply to the deeds of compassion and beneficence which are the proper fruits of true religion. Especially in some conditions of society almsgiving is expedient and beneficial. In times of famine, in cases of affliction and sudden calamity, it is a duty to supply the need of the poor and hungry. At the same time, the indiscriminate bestowal of what is called charity unquestionably does more harm than good, especially in a state of society in which few need suffer want who are diligent, frugal, temperate, and self-denying. But there are many other ways in which benevolence may express itself beside almsgiving. The Christian is called upon to care both for the bodies and for the souls of his fellow-men - to give the bread of knowledge as well as the bread that perisheth, and to provide a spiritual portion for the enrichment and consolation of the destitute.
I. THE NATURAL EMOTION OF BENEVOLENCE IS RECOGNIZED AND HALLOWED BY TRUE RELIGION. It may be maintained with confidence that sympathy is as natural to man as selfishness, although the love of self is too often allowed by our sinful nature to overcome the love of others. But when Christ takes possession, by his Spirit, of a man's inner nature, then the benevolence which may have been dormant is aroused, and new direction is given to it, and new power to persevere and to succeed in the attainment of its object.
II. RELIGION PROMPTS TO A PRACTICAL EXPRESSION OF BENEVOLENT FEELING. Too often sympathy is a sentimental luxury, leading to no effort, no self-denial. The poet justly denounces those who, "Nursed in mealy-mouthed philanthropies, Divorce the feeling from her mate - the deed." But the spirit of the Savior urges to Christ-like endeavor, and sustains the worker for men's bodily, social, and spiritual good. The bread must be cast, the portion must be given.
III. BENEVOLENCE MEETS IN ITS EXERCISE WITH MANY DISCOURAGEMENTS. The bread is cast upon the waters. This implies that in many cases we must expect to lose sight of the results of our work; that we must he prepared for disappointment; that, at all events, we must fulfill our service for God and man in faith, and rather from conviction and principle than from any hope of apparent and immediate success.
IV. A PROMISE IS GIVEN WHICH IS INTENDED TO URGE TO PERSEVERANCE. What is, as it were, committed to the deep shall be found after the lapse of days. The waters do not destroy, they fertilize and fructify, the seed. Thus "they who sow in tears shall reap in joy." In how many ways this promise is fulfilled the history of the Christian Church, and even the experience of every individual worker for God, abundantly show. In places and at times altogether unexpected and unlikely, there come to light evidences that the work has been cared for, watched over, and prospered by God himself. He does not suffer the efforts of his faithful servants to come to naught. The good they aim at, and much which never occurred to them to anticipate, is effected in God's time by the marvelous operation of his providence and his Spirit. "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.