Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 22, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

It has been said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. I believe every person realizes that the future is definitely one thing that falls into the category of being uncertain - after all, who could have predicted just 6 months ago that the first half of 2020 would look like this? As we move into Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, the Teacher has already discussed right and wrong at length, and now he begins to move into a discussion of how to live in the present with the future being uncertain.

In Ecclesiastes 10, we saw a lot of proverbs, sayings for wise living. Chapter 11 looks like it continues that theme of proverbs, but these wise sayings are more related to each other thematically than those of chapter 10. Here, the theme is giving the reader wisdom for an uncertain future.

Verses 1-2 start out with discussing investments: “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.”

This brings to my mind something that my dad often says: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” It’s risky to ship your grain far away across the sea, but if you don’t try it, you definitely won’t gain anything from it. It can be risky to invest in certain ventures, but again, if you don’t try it, you won’t gain anything. It’s also important to invest in a variety of ventures; an individual one may fail, but if you have investments in multiple places, it’s less likely that they will all fail.

This also brings to mind the Parable of the Talents (or the Parable of the Bags of Gold) that Jesus told, recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. The servants who invested their money received gain from their investments, along with rewards from the master. But the servant who did not invest it lost even that bit he had been given because he did not act wisely. Even if you only have a little, it is still wise to invest it; nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Verses 3-4 use the weather as another analogy for the uncertainty we all face: “If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.”

We do know that we can count on the laws of nature to function in the way that God created them. When the clouds get heavy, it will rain. Trees will fall and stay there, they won’t move somewhere else on their own. But in spite of that, we can’t wait for things to be certain before we act. Farmers cannot wait for the exact perfect weather conditions before they plant their fields or they’ll likely miss the opportunity. We can become too focused on the weather conditions or the planning for something that we miss the opportunity to actually do the thing we’re trying to plan.

Verse 5 reminds us that we know so little compared to God: “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.”

Today’s modern science does know a lot more about how wind works, how a baby is formed in the womb, and many other things compared to in the time of the Teacher, but we still do not know everything. Much of it is still a mystery to us. This verse really sums of the theme of the whole book of Ecclesiastes - we can’t understand how God works, but we can still follow the rules God has given us and trust that He will work everything out.

Verse 6 gives a summary of this section regarding the uncertain future: “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

The fact of the matter is that we do not know the future, so there are risks we must take. While some things we do will fail, others will succeed. These teachings are specifically focused on trade and farming, as that was the business of the culture in which this book was written. Many of us do not deal with those tasks as our occupations today, and if we do, technology has drastically changed things, but the principles in these verses are still important. It is important to invest wisely and in multiple different ventures. It’s important to know that there will be uncertainty in life. It’s important not to miss a great opportunity because of indecision over the risks involved due to uncertainties.

So, how does our faith as followers of Jesus fit into all of this? Because of the relationship that we can have with God because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, we can communicate with God about the everyday things in our lives. Whether it’s deciding where to invest our money, if we should relocate our family for a new opportunity, if we should take this job or that one, or whatever we’re facing, spend time in prayer over it. Don’t just tell God what’s going on (He already knows, but it is good to tell Him anyway), but make sure you listen for His voice as well. Sometimes God will clearly tell us what to do; other times it’s more subtle and we need to recognize clues that He gives us. Sometimes He will open up opportunities for us, or shut them down, in order to guide us along the right path.

We need to trust that we do not know everything and that God does; that’s why it’s a great comfort to know that He is God and we are not. Allow Him to guide you, and trust His guidance in your life.

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