Casting Bread – 5 Principles of Sowing
In an agrarian society, seeds speak a different language to the people. To the sower, the seed gives hope of a bountiful harvest, whilst to the farmer’s wife, the seed can be processed into bread for food today. One can sow the seed or use it to make bread, but one cannot do both with the same seed. This is the “sower-eater” dilemma.
Paul uses this illustration in the context of Christian giving in 2 Cor 9:10. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah (55:10-11) who applies this “sower-eater” dilemma to the word of God. One can easily see the link between sowing seed and casting “bread” on the waters.
Ecclesiastes 11: 1-6 alludes to 5 principles on sowing which are helpful as we work hard in sharing our faith.
Firstly, “BE GENEROUS WITH EVERYONE”. Verse 1 reads, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. (NIV). The NLT is more explicit, “Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later.” Casting bread upon the waters is an allusion to the planting of padi in the waterlogged rice fields.
This means that we ought to share liberally and witness to a broader group of people around us. We should not select only certain types of people to share our faith with. Generally, people need to hear the gospel on an average of 7 times before they will make a commitment. The point is that we must keep on sharing, “Giving generously.” As much as we enjoy studying the Bible for our own benefit (“eating,”) we ought to also share our faith (“sowing.”) It is only when we sow, that we shall one day also reap.
Secondly, “SOME THINGS IN LIFE ARE CERTAIN.” Verse 3 reads, “If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie (NIV). One certainty is recorded in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Jesus says the same thing, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).” With due respect to Benjamin Franklin, death and taxes are not the only certain things in life.
A professor of philosophy in a university was lecturing on the lack of certainty in our age. “Certainty is impossible,” he said. “We can know nothing for certain.” A freshman raised her hand and asked, “Professor are you sure of that?” “I’m certain!” he replied. Yes, we live in an age of uncertainty. We’re learning more and more about everything and yet we seem to know less and less for sure. Yet some things remain very, very certain. If you don’t sow, you’ll not reap. If you sow to the flesh, you reap judgement. If you sow the word, you can expect a harvest of souls.
Thirdly, “DON’T WAIT FOR THE PERFECT CONDITIONS TO SOW.” Verse 4 reads, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap (NIV).” The New Living Translation puts it succinctly, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” One of the attribute of a farmer is patience. This is a most needed ingredient in the farmer’s array of abilities. Things just take time to grow. It takes a woman nine months to deliver a baby. Nine women cannot do it in one month. Since growing takes time, our sowing must be intentional, purposeful and with an eye to the future when we shall reap. The time lag factor between sowing and reaping means we must be determined to sow and wait. There is no such thing as a perfect time to sow, to share our faith, to rescue the perishing.”
Let me share with you an incident which D. L. Moody called “the biggest blunder of his life.” It happened on October 8, 1871, during a preaching series in Farwell Hall, Chicago. His text was “What then shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ.” At the conclusion of the sermon Moody said he would give the people one week to make up their minds about Jesus. He then turned to Ira Sankey for a solo, and Sankey sang “Today the Saviour Calls.” But by the third verse Sankey’s voice was drowned out by the noise outside the hall. The great Chicago fire had begun, and the flames were even then sweeping toward the Hall. The clanging of the fire bells and the noise of the engines made it impossible to continue the meeting. The premises was engulfed during the fire that night and some 200 people in Chicago died in that fire. In the years that followed, Moody wished that he had called for an immediate decision for Christ.
Fourthly, “DON’T RELY ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.” Verse 5 reads, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things (NIV)” Whilst some things are certain in life, there are many things where we haven’t a clue as to how they would work out. Whilst struggling with the different methods we can best employ to win specific individuals, I was told of a story of the person who received the Lord one night when the Lord Jesus appeared to him in a vision and asked him to surrender his life completely to him! Another person eavesdropped during an EE on-the-job training, heard the entire gospel presentation and gave her life to Christ! An old military chorus goes, “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die!” We can try our best to understanding things, but we’re never going to know “… the path of the wind.”
Finally, “WORK HARD AND TRUST GOD FOR THE RESULTS.” Verse 6 reads, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well (NIV).” Work hard, enjoy yourself and have a good time as you share you faith. Don’t be stressed up because that will be reflected in your countenance. Be humble and let God be God. Just be obedient to Him and do what He says. Have a servant’s heart. Ultimately we will have to account to God and to serve obediently will bring its rewards. The outcome is not our responsibility. Indeed as Paul says some are indeed called to sow while others are called to reap. The NLT puts it this way, “Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops, for you never know which will grow—perhaps they all will.”
May our Lord Jesus bless you all as you continue to faithfully share your faith
Voon Yuen Woh