Thank you my dear friend for a very good question. I believe that in order to fully understand Ecclesiastes (where the verse you have cited comes from), one must realize that this book searches the experience of man “under the sun”, or in other words, what this life is all about from the perspective of purely human reasoning. Ecclesiastes, I believe, brings out some basic principles of life in this world. Now, the verse you are asking about is found in Ecclesiastes 11:1, which says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Let’s take a look at what this means. William MacDonald in his commentary on this portion of Scripture states: “Bread is used symbolically here for the grain from which it is made. To cast bread upon the waters may refer to the practice of sowing in flooded areas, or it may mean carrying on grain trade by sea. In any case, the thought is that a widespread and wholesale distribution of what is good will result in a generous return in the time of harvest. This verse is true of the gospel. We may not see immediate results as we share the bread of life, but the eventual harvest is sure.”

Now, as to the force of Ecclesiastes 11:1, I agree with MacDonald where he summarizes the general idea of the verse when he suggests: “a widespread and wholesale distribution of what is good will result in a generous return in the time of harvest.” Personally, I do believe that we can also take from this verse that what a man sows, that also will he reap (Galatians 6:7-8); or, the verse might simply be a statement of a fact of life that a person must sow the seed in order to enjoy the harvest. I would very much agree with what MacDonald said regarding the spreading of the Gospel, because the Lord has given to His saints to “sow the seed” in order for there to be a harvest. We read: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13-14). In this sin-sick world, it is the duty, and should be the heart-felt desire of true Christians to “spread our bread upon the waters,” or in other words, sow the seed of the Gospel, praying for the increase.  Sometimes, we may fear that the message will not be received, but we are encouraged to sow the seed in hope and in love in any case. We have the sure hope and knowledge that Christ will bring about the increase as we read in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” 

My dear friend, a person will reap what he sows, and this is a general principle of life in this scene. But, unlike that “under the sun” perspective of Ecclesiastes, we do have more than just a hope of a good return on our earthly investments according to the principles of this life…we have the living Word of God to sow, which can change the hearts of men and bring them to salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is much more than just an earthly occupation in order to reap a harvest of grain, but rather it is a heavenly calling to be “fishers of men.” You and I, as true believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, will want to please Him in all things (John 14:15). Nothing pleases the Lord like obedience to His Word, and our Lord Jesus has commanded us to go forth sowing the precious seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world (Matthew 28:19).  It is not always easy work, and there can be dangers and great exertions to endure. But we go forth with the tears of hope and love, and sow the seed in the expectation of the return which the Lord Himself will prosper (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). I have often heard the verses of Psalms 126 used in the anticipation of saved souls: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him,” (Psalms 126:5-6). What a happy thought for the Christian, for we know that God’s Word is never sown in vain, but will be used according to His perfect will (Isaiah 55:11). May each and every one of us who have tasted the saving Grace of our Lord faithfully sow the precious seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in hope and love until He returns to the air to take us home to be with Himself!  (SF)  (577.5)