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Lowell Brueckner

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Ecclesiastes 11

Chapter 11

The fruits of generosity

1. Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
2. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.

Chapter 11 begins with an encouragement towards giving to those, who cannot return the favor. Of course, the writer is referring, not to bread literally, but that, which will become bread in the future. He means seed, such as rice, which is cast into shallow water and sinks into the ground. To the unknowing eye, it would seem lost, but actually the planter is sure it will produce in a matter of months. So the one, who trusts in God, knows well that whatever is given in obedience to God for the benefit of others, He will certainly return (v.1). Jesus taught it this way: “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind… because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Lk.14:13,14).

Be generous in giving, as much as you are able. The number seven implies completeness, which in this case means reaching the full measure of your ability, in order to fully supply the need. “Even to eight” means to go beyond what you are able, which suggests giving by faith, trusting God then to meet your needs. Paul commends the Macedonians, who gave “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (2 Co.8:2,3).

“Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply you need” (2 Co.8:14), Paul taught the Corinthians, as they were to give to the need in Jerusalem. It was a difficult time in Judea, where the communal lifestyle had broken down. Even those who were better off, no longer had enough to help the destitute. Paul appealed to the Gentile churches for help, for the day might come, when they would be in need. Solomon tells us that there is no guarantee of financial well-being. Disasters happen, in which people lose everything (v.2). We see again how beautifully the Scriptures coincide and consistent principle is presented, as the Holy Spirit inspires Old and New Testament writers.

Live life only for God, putting your trust in Him

3. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4. He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
5. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know what will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
7. Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
8. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

Situations arise that go beyond the people’s source of security and then they are helpless. What will be will be is the simple proverb that reminds us that we do not control our own destiny. We are cautioned not to allow our lives to be controlled by a phobia for security. We are to go on with life and trust God for His care (v.3,4)…

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Our Creator and Lord has formed us from the womb. To belabor the obvious, we had no control or knowledge of our formation: “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret… Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps.139:13-16). We owe God for our existence and for every detail of our life. Along with the physical development, the soul is created is every individual fetus (v.5). We are not capable of making decisions for the basics of life, so we ought to recognize our dependence upon our Creator. We were not made to be independent, self-confident or self-sufficient. A Christian is one, who has surrendered to the control of his Master.

In verse 6, the preacher gives us the principle for practical living and the counsel we need to carry it out. We are to pass our life, day-by-day and from youth to old age, throwing aside our attempts to control our own destiny. Since we are so limited in our knowledge, life is lived by faith in God for our future. He ordains and we accept with gratefulness His determined will. Because He desires our trust, He gives us little knowledge of what will be. We see this principle of faith in the Bible from the days of Abraham, who left Ur, not knowing where he was going. Philip left Samaria by angelic order, not knowing the reason for a trek to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Peter left Jerusalem, not knowing that the purpose of his trip was to arrive in Caesarea, and Paul and his team crossed the whole of modern Turkey without knowing their destination.

We are not learning from a disgruntled old man, as some think, who is disenchanted with life, but from a wise sage, who can tell us how to enjoy its values. He writes of what is pleasant and sweet, and encourages the aged to live every day with a sunny disposition (v.7-8). Once the light of his day goes out, his opportunities will be over. Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (Jn.9:4). We have been given our lifetime on earth to accomplish the purposes of God.

A special message for youth

9. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

I memorized verse 9 as a child and it is a warning for youth, in order to make him aware of the consequences of living for himself. He thinks that he has all of life before him to live as he pleases. He must know that God will judge him for how he spends his youthful years. Spiritual concerns are not only for the mature and the aged. The young man will answer to his Lord for his egotistical ways. He is shown that he is free to go his own way and seek his own happiness, but in the end there will be consequences. This is a key verse, let us consider it with all carefulness. “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.” Spend your youth, seeking the things that make you happy. “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.” Make your plans as you see fit and follow your heart. Go after the things that are before your eyes. “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” However, you will not escape judgment, if you live out your youth for yourself. 

The pursuit and practice of youthful diversion, throw the young person’s inner life into disarray. He is not happy in his lust for pleasure and he is carried into all kinds of upheaval that unravels his spiritual being. The preacher counsels him to “remove vexation from your heart”. The strain on his body in his quest for recognition and fame can be painful. The preacher advises, “Put away pain from your body”. The desires that the youth undertake early in life are painful for the body and bring unrest to the soul. It is vanity. This is a book that young people especially should study before they seriously begin their preparation for life.


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