This small chapter can easily be divided into two parts.  Verses 1-6 deal with our liberality, or giving to the poor and verses 7-10 speak of the vanity of life on earth. To answer your good question, let’s read Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.”  This is written as a contrast to what we read in Ecclesiastes 10:20, “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.”  Where this verse tells us not to curse others, Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 speak to us of being a blessing to others.  I’m reminded of 1 Peter 3:11 where we are instructed to “turn away from evil and do good.” (NKJV)

While many of us often quote the expression, “Cast thy bread upon the waters”, do we understand what is being said?  It is written with the farmer in mind.  The word ‘bread’ actually is in reference to wheat that is to be planted.  The farmer is encouraged to cast some of his wheat upon the waters while planting.  The waters refer to flooded or marshy ground.  Once the waters recede, the grain will spring up!  We read in Isaiah 32:20, “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters…”

Once there is growth, the farmer is instructed to be generous with his crops.  He is instructed to give of his grain to seven or eight people.  An exact number is not given, showing we should not be so strict with our generosity.  If we can give to 7, then do so.  If we can give to 8, or even more, then do so.  After all, the growth of the wheat was really due to the grace of God.  Once the grain is cast, it is the wind that carries it to the proper place.  No plowing was needed because of the standing water, which is a result of the rain the Lord sent.  All we have is because of the blessings of the Lord; therefore we should be ready to share all our blessings with others as the Lord leads.

Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”  If we refuse to reach out to the poor when the Lord has blessed us with abundant supply, the day may come that we may need help, yet we may find none to help us.  As we just read in verse 2, “for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.”  May the Lord give us hearts to minister to those around us when we are able.  It may be that those we help today will be the very ones who may help us tomorrow!  We find a wonderful principle given to us in Proverbs 19:17, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”  (187.2)