Today’s readings are Ecclesiastes 11, and Matt 22:15-46.
Depending on the version of the Bible you are reading, you may find the early verses of Chapter 11 rendered quite differently. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, compare verses 1 and 2 in a few different versions.
Some translations (eg KJV, RSV, and ESV) talk about casting bread upon the waters.
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.
– Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, English Standard Version
The meaning may not be immediately apparent so some translations (e.g. NIV, The Good News Translation) have interpreted these verses as investment advice for profit. The NIV even adds in a heading to that effect.
Invest in Many Ventures
Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
– Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, New International Version
Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Divide your gifts among many, for in the days ahead you yourself may need much help.
– Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, The Living Bible
I have always read Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 as speaking about generosity. While I’m no Hebrew scholar or expert on Ecclesiastes, I tend to feel that this view fits more with the overall tenor of the vanity or meaninglessness with which the author describes life and its pursuits under the sun. And when we view it in that light, perhaps it doesn’t matter either way.
Indeed the book’s relentless theme continues through the second half of Chapter 11 as it builds to the coming culmination in Chapter 12. In effect we are being pounded with
“by all means enjoy life, but make no mistake, life is short, and in the end you will meet your maker — are you ready?”.
Interestingly enough, it’s that same sense of perspective that Jesus has in mind as the Pharisees try to trap Jesus asking him about paying taxes to Caesar.
“By all means do what’s necessary in this world, but make no mistake, life is short, and in the end you will meet your maker — are you living with Him in mind?”.
It can be easy to read the exchanges with the Pharisees and the Sadducees with glee at how Jesus out-smarts them time and again, and cheer Him on as the hero—and there is nothing wrong with that—What a hero! As Matthew records, everyone was amazed.
It’s good though to make sure we’re not so busy cheering Him on that we miss the “kingdom perspective” in his answers, and perhaps miss whether we’re more like the Pharisees than like Jesus. As you read the rest of Matthew 22 keep looking for the Jesus’ kingdom perspective in each interchange.
His answer to the Sadducees in verse 29 is prefaced with why they are wrong:
You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God
Unless we seek to know the Scriptures and the power of God, we will not be able to keep a kingdom sense of perspective. My prayer today is that God will help me see the world and live my life with that kingdom sense of perspective, in a way that is real and grounded, and makes a difference.
May He bless you as you seek to know the Scriptures and the power of God.