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Ecclesiastes 11:1–2

“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.”

In the eighth commandment, we find the key law against theft that forms the basis for the other teaching on economics in Scripture. By forbidding us from taking that which does not rightly belong to us (Ex. 20:15), God’s Word implicitly commends private ownership and imposes on us the duty of wise stewardship so that we do not steal from others or even from our own future through the mismanagement of what the Lord has given us. The commandment not to steal also helps us understand that it is good to try to build wealth and to encourage others to do the same. Making theft illegal implies that one can never get so rich as to lose the right to keep what he rightfully owns. As long as we do not become selfish and advantage ourselves at the expense of others, there is no sin in seeking to increase our resources.

The Bible not only implicitly approves of our seeking prosperity in the eighth commandment, but it also features other passages that directly commend productive investment to build wealth. Consider Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 and its call to cast our bread upon the waters. This exhortation likely draws from seafaring trade in the ancient world. An individual who financed the building of ships and travel by sea put his money at risk. It was always possible for sailors not to discover the spices or other treasures that they sought. Pirates could capture ships and their goods. Accidents and storms could sink the boats and expeditions that one invested in. In light of all this risk, the safe option would be to not cast your bread on the waters, to not invest in enterprises that are not completely safe but that promise extravagant returns. Yet Scripture says not that we should forgo investments but rather that we should cast our bread upon the waters, spreading monies across diverse investments (seven or eight) in order to get a return (Eccl. 11:1–2). Certainly, the Bible does not here call us to reckless attempts at increasing wealth; rather, it is calling us to put our resources to work wisely so that we may reap the benefit.

In our day, when we are tempted to spend everything now and not invest for the future, the eighth commandment’s call to wise saving and investment needs to be heard and embraced. When we seek to multiply our resources, we create opportunities to enjoy more of the Lord’s blessings and to have wealth to draw upon to support the work of the church and to help those in true need.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Are you seeking to be a wise steward of your resources in order to preserve and increase them? This is what Scripture commends, so if we are to be faithful to God and His law, we must seek, as we are able, to pursue the multiplication of the resources that the Lord has given us. In so doing, let us have as our goal not merely to acquire more goods but rather to increase our capacity to provide for the work of God’s kingdom.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 13:11
  • Matthew 25:14–30

The Law against Theft

Our All-Gracious Savior

Keep Reading Misunderstood Biblical Words and Phrases

From the August 2022 Issue
Aug 2022 Issue