Summary: Accept the risks; reap the benefits.
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YOU WILL NEVER REAP IF YOU NEVER SOW
Several times in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher states that life is unpredictable. We never know when tragedy might strike. I was reminded of this fact last Sunday afternoon when my Dad phoned and told me that my Mom and sister had been in a car accident. Thankfully, they were not seriously hurt. But judging from the picture of my sister’s badly damaged car, the outcome could have very easily been much worse.
Life is too short to always “play it safe.” In this passage, we find three rules for risk-taking.
1. Take risks BOLDLY but WISELY.
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth (vv. 1-2).
When the Preacher says, “Cast your bread upon the waters,” he is probably talking about sea trade. (However, others say that it refers to giving to the poor.) There were risks involved in sea trade: shipwrecks (shipwrecks in Halifax Harbour), piracy, dishonesty, etc.
It’s said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So the wise farmer would not put all his grain on one ship. Instead, he would put his grain on seven or eight ships (v. 2). He would diversify.
When people assess risk, they consider the potential loss, the probability of loss, and the potential benefit.
This week we will observe Remembrance Day, a day for remembering men and women who sacrificed their lives serving their country in battle. They knew the potential loss (their lives), but they were willing to take the risk because they valued the potential benefit (freedom for their nation).
We could think also of the risk of Queen Esther: “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:14), and the risks of Paul and Barnabas: “Men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). For Esther, Paul, and Barnabas, both the potential loss and the potential benefits were great. The potential loss was death. The potential benefit for Esther was the saving of her people. The potential benefit for Paul and Barnabas was the salvation of many people.
Risk-taking for Christ requires:
(1) COMMITMENT “Cast your bread upon the waters.”
(2) FAITH – “For you will find it.”
(3) PATIENCE – “After many days.”
Hudson Taylor once said, “Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith.”
What risk is God showing you that you should take? Be bold, but wise. Think of the potential benefits, not just the potential loss.
2. Take risks PROMPTLY.
He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap (v. 4).
It’s often said that we are living in “uncertain times.” But aren’t we always living in uncertain times? Four times in six verses, the Preacher mentions uncertainty. And many times uncertainty leads to inactivity (sins of omission). We are often like a farmer who never sows because he thinks it might be windy and never reaps because he thinks it might rain.