Diversify your Investments and Give Generously (Ecclesiastes 11)

Ecclesiastes 11

Solomon tells us to cast our bread upon the water.  He is not stating that we should literally go throw bread out at the lake, but rather this is probably a shipping term.  In Solomon’s day comerce would take grain and goods from one country to anther via the shipping lanes (on the water).  Yet, they didn’t have weather tracking systems and sometimes ships would go to sea never to be heard from again.  But, often ships would make it to port.  Sell the grain and goods and bring home a hefty profit.  Solomon says it is better to go ahead and invest in many places than place all your eggs in one basket (so to speak).  You don’t know where the hurricane will strike, the oil leak will emerge, or the demand for 8-tracks will hit rock bottom.  However, one thing is sure.  If you stare at the sky and try to calculate the weather and never invest, you won’t receive a profit (11:4).  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  So invest in lots of places and spread out the risk.

I think the application here is for more than how you are going to manage your retirement portfolio.  Sometimes we can be paralised by the obstacles ahead of us.  Your sitting there staring at the sky looking for the right conditions.  You don’t know the future.  The only way to live life is to take some calculated risk.  Things will not always work out according to your plan.  Better to attempt something great rather than use the excuse that you were just waiting for the right moment and it never came.

Make investments where it really counts. Be generous in your relationships.  Give to others.  Be a good friend, a good spouse, a good parent, open your home to others, show grace, forgive, look for opportunities to share Jesus.  Don’t be disappointed if you are not immediately met with success in these areas of your life.  Cast your bread on the water.  Live soberly knowing that one day we will all give an account to God (Ecclesiastes11:9).

4 thoughts on “Diversify your Investments and Give Generously (Ecclesiastes 11)

  1. Wow! You and brother Chris both read this as a “business model” thing. I’m going to think about that one, because I’ve always considered this to be about charity and giving with no reference to “biz” (except not to be a miser and hoard for a “rainy day”). I’m not going to list all the New Testament references about not worrying about tomorrow.

    I see chapters 10-12 as the tying up of the lesson being taught: Without God, everything in life is vanity and with God, all of the various “vanities” are useful and good. So the lesson I take from here is that the solution to the “vanity” of getting and seeking wealth that you cannot take with you is charity as God commands.


  2. pastorjonathan1

    I don’t think its just a business model. Though it does have that application. In our culture we recognize the business model fairly quickly, but we are slow to make the greater application… Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan so avoid two big mistakes. 1. waiting for the perfect conditions, 2. betting the whole pot on one hand.

    Take calculated risk in life, but be willing to lose and move on. To the young adult singles that I counsel the non-business form of this would look like… wash your clothes and put your self out there. Don’t over commit emotionally to someone you have never been on a date with. If you get rejected its not the end of the world. There is probably someone else out there for you.


  3. Okay, I see the divide now. I rely more on older commentaries and sources rather than the shiny new ones. The business interpretation doesn’t appear to be over a few decades old, although there is a gap I haven’t filled in my searching, so it could be around a century old, but I’d bet it is closer to a couple of decades than a century. Earliest reference I could find was to Larry Burkett and he didn’t form his Christian finance seminar company until 1976.

    Flaw of mine. I’m so adverse to historical and/or cultural decontextualization of Scripture (real common on the TV preachers, atheists, etc.), that sometimes my context, like my sources, is old fashioned.

    I also do a bit of gardening, so “cast your bread” (i.e. cereal crop seed, not ground up seed mixed with water and cooked) refers to the planting (because you can hope, but you really don’t know what will come up until harvest time) and makes a lot of sense to me. The “many waters” refers to planting practices along rivers (especially the Nile) where the seed got thrown into the muddy and partly flooded growing areas to set in the fertile soil.

    So the problem with using it to justify diversification is that it would be like throwing a fistful of darts at the business section of the paper and then going and buying the stocks that got a dart in their name. Remember, these people didn’t till straight rows with their tractor (or if they are fancy, till, drop seed and cover) for planting. They literally scattered the seed on the turned soil. See Luke 8:5-8.

    Heh, it does fit to the Nike slogan: “Just Do It” when people say they need “more prep time”. People don’t need another class on sharing their faith, they need to go share it. Thank you, that does work well.


  4. pastorjonathan1

    It was referenced in the Keil & Delitzsch commentary too. I think it was originally published in the 19th century.


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