Demanding that this life be heaven on earth will not make it so. That will only lead to disappointment, frustration, and more trouble. But there is more to the good life than this awareness. Living well in a world under the Lord’s sentence of futility is not just a matter of recognizing the facts of decay and death. The Preacher has already told us that the simple enjoyments of the ordinary gifts of God in our own homes is a very important part of having peace and happiness as we live under the sun. Yet there is one more very important lesson for living that comes to us from this great book of wisdom. The Preacher says, “Cast your bread upon the waters.”
This beautiful image goes beyond your own household. We stand at the water’s edge, and we give away a portion of God’s good gifts that we have received from His hands. We cast them upon the waters, willingly giving a portion to seven, or even to eight, perhaps having no idea of how our little bit of help will be of any lasting benefit to anyone. We could easily convince ourselves that generous living makes no sense. With all the problems of this world, and with our own meager supply of wealth, looking for new opportunities to help others is really like casting your bread upon the waters. What will be the good of it? Yet the Preacher says that we should do it, and that we will find that it will return to us sometime, perhaps after many days have passed.
How can we know that we will be repaid when we are generous to others? This reminds us of another one of the Preacher’s favorite messages. God is sovereign. He sees and He knows. His work will stand forever. Generous living with an awareness of the reign of God over all things is wisdom, though it seems as foolish as casting your bread upon the waters. You will find that bread again, perhaps when you need it the most, perhaps from the hand of someone who once turned to you for help.
This generosity of heart makes a wonderful partner to diligent labor. Those who are up and about the task that God has for them every day may find in their work not only a provision for their own daily bread, but also several portions for others who are in need. Do not worry too much about whether someone deserves your assistance. Yes, you do not want to unwittingly encourage laziness or evil in others, but do not allow your own continual excuses to persuade you that a practical deed of love is a bad idea. Work hard, and then cast your bread upon the waters.
Because God is in charge, and since He knows so much that is hidden from you, your giving need not be a calculated decision of how everything will eventually work out in your own favor. You don’t know the work of God who makes everything. You may find that more prosperity comes to you as a result of your giving than from the profits of your business, or you may find that both your business and your mercy are blessed by God. Cultivate a life-long habit of love, and the tree of your life will one day fall in a place where generous hearts rest after their days of toil under the sun are completed.
Now we work, we receive, and we give; and all of it can be enjoyed. This is the life of light that God has for His beloved children in a world of darkness. If even this world has such sweetness and beauty though it is under a sentence of death, how much more wonderful must heaven be! Gain a glimpse of the life to come as you labor and as you give away the fruits of your work. One day others who were crying out to the Lord for help may be greeting you when you arrive in the most pleasant world of light.
To live the good life, this is wisdom. Jesus of Nazareth lived the ultimate life. He lived with a full awareness that death and destruction were all around him. He worked hard, but He also enjoyed the simple pleasures. In fact some of the Pharisees thought that He and His disciples enjoyed life a little too much, and they were not sure that their celebrations were very spiritual. Most of all, He gave everything away, so that when He was finished with His work on earth, there was nothing left to give. His generosity was not wasted. It was powerful for the saving of lives, and now we worship the One who loved us so well. He lives forever in the most exalted place of divine power. One day we will gaze much more fully upon the wisdom of His life.
His time on earth was not particularly long, but it was a life lived with the fullest awareness of God and man. When all His works were judged, the verdict of His Father was “not guilty,” and “righteous.” The blessing bestowed upon Him was fullness of glory in heavenly realms. He has taken this fruit of His perfect labor and shared it with you. Because of the certainty of His resurrection gift, the futility of death shall one day be far removed from both your body and your soul forever.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Almighty God, we see the wisdom of generosity. You will help us in our day of need. Keep us working and thinking, but help us especially to trust You and to be kind. Thank You for the light that You give us day by day, for a time of darkness or confusion may be coming. Father, if we explored wisdom here for millennia we would not find the way to fix our own problems of evil and the curse that has come upon this world through sin. Will we solve the decay that we see all around us? We will not live forever through the most brilliant medicine. We will not create heaven on earth through the most enlightened politics or philosophy. The more we study and consider, the more we see our own ignorance, folly, and wickedness. There has to be an end to our days here. There has to come some silence for our over-exercised tongues. We long for You, and we wait for Your deliverance.