Friday, June 10, 2016

Good Words to Live By (Ecclesiastes 11:1; Galatians 6:7) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

Parenting can often be reduced to one word – help!   Parents, sometimes out of curiosity and other times out of desperation, will resort to almost anything to do their best in trying to figure out how to raise their children.  For example, I recall my mother drawing from the Bible and reciting the Golden Rule when my brother and I were fighting and bickering.  She also drew from other sources, like her own mother's wisdom from the old country, Norway, when she would mutter something in Norwegian when we were misbehaving.  We didn't understand what she was saying and it was probably better that way.  She drew wisdom from asking the advice from other mothers she knew, and she also drew from the Greeks, yes, in the form of Aesop's fables.  I learned the lessons, but I didn't know it was Aesop at the time.   I just thought she made up these stories.  I spent time studying these fables of Aesop in depth in college.

For example, depending on what kind of trouble or problems my brother and I were having, she would apply a story to teach us a lesson.  Like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and the moral, slow and steady wins the race, or the story of the Lion and the Mouse and the moral, little friends may prove to be great friends, or the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf and the moral, if you lie to others, even when you tell the truth, no one will believe you, and the story about the Early Bird Catches the Worm when we didn't want to get out of bed for school.

The Bible too, has spiritual lessons, moral axioms, good words for life, to teach us and guide and direct our lives, so that we might live in accord to the way God created us.

The verse from the letter of Galatians says:  “Don't be deceived.  God is not mocked, for whatever one's sows, that also shall one reap.”  This is a biblical law.  This is a spiritual truth or lesson, you reap what you sow!   You and I aren't trapped in an invisible cage, our lives aren't pre-programmed or pre-determined.  We have free-will, the freedom every day to sow good things or bad things, to be productive or unproductive.   God has given us freedom and grace.  Praise God.

This scripture is using seed as a metaphor for anything we sow in life that can multiply and produce more.  Everything begins with a seed.  For example, being deprived of a farm background, since I grew up in San Diego, I recently learned you can plant a small kernel of corn and it produces two cornstalks.  Each stalk produces two ears of corn.  Each ear of corn contains over seven hundred kernels of corn.  From one small kernel of corn, 2,800 more kernels are created.

God has created you and me to be sowers.  Seed is anything you plant or give or invest or pass on or multiply that benefits someone.   Time is like a seed.  An idea is like a seed.  Faith is like a seed.  Mentoring is like a seed.  Knowledge is like a seed.  Money is like a seed.   Wisdom is like a seed.  A word of comfort is like a seed.  Helping others is like a seed.  Brainstorming, creativity, experimentation is like a seed.   Love is like a seed.  An encouraging word is like a seed.  Prayer is like a seed.  Everything in your mind or that you own can be planted back into the world as a seed.  What are you sowing in your life?

And this spiritual lesson of life, established by God, promises that God blesses us with benefits.  God gives back to you and me, when we sow seeds.  We reap what we sow.   When we sow good seed, we may reap knowledge, joy, confidence, peace of mind, good friendships, a sense of satisfaction/accomplishment, success, hope, finances, a stronger faith, health, discovering new insights about ourselves.

20th Century African American scientist and inventor, George Washington Carver wrote:  “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life, you will have been all of these.”

This good word works both ways of course.  There are also consequences, repercussions from what we sow.  Drinking and driving is a classic example.  If we sow evil, we reap evil.  If we sow hatred, we shall reap hatred.  If we sow trouble, we reap trouble.  If we sow gossip about friends, we shall lose their friendship and reap loneliness.  If we sow negativity, we shall reap negativity.  If we sow dishonesty, we shall reap the loss of friendships and opportunities.

God's law of life is as fixed as the law of gravity.  It's God's word of justice in life.  God is not mocked.  God has established this rule and it will be carried out.    It is God's word about responsibility.  God has given everyone unique responsibilities and we will be most satisfied when we fulfill them.

Further, our Scripture in Ecclesiastes says:  “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”   These verses declare that life is uncertain, it involves both risk and opportunity.  Waters, raging rivers, strong currents, like life, are unpredictable.  I know, I went white water river rafting in CO.  There are no guarantees, we can't control things around us.  Despite this reality, that the rivers of life can be fearful, God says cast your bread upon the waters.  Now bread was valuable in the life of the Jews.  Bread is something you cast that is important or valuable to you.  Bread is a metaphor for anything you cast out in life.  It can mean take the initiative, be proactive, be ready to face the delights and crises of life.  Seize the opportunities life offers, rather than always playing it safe.

Cast your bread on the unforeseeable, seek after possibilities, don't stay sheltered and hidden, seeking security and safety and protection from the vicissitudes of life. “It's the nothing ventured, nothing gained idea!”   If you fail, so be it.  Everyone fails. I have failed.   Sooner or later we all fail and more than once.  We can learn from failures and grow from failures and mature from failures.  Trust in God's guidance and strength, and pray for God's courage for your heart and light for your way.

Doing nothing out of fear or worry is not God's way.  Cast your bread on the waters means to see life as an adventure, to have an adventurous spirit and go forth with a God directed enthusiasm and faith.  Waiting for perfect conditions, for perfect circumstances, means we will wait forever.   If we wait for the perfect school, we will never enroll.  If we wait for the perfect church, we will never join.  If we wait for the perfect friend, we will be friendless.  If we wait for the perfect job, we will be jobless.  If we wait for perfect weather, well, except for living in San Diego, but in most places we will never go anywhere.  If we wait for God to prove his existence to us, we will never come to faith.  Faith, always, in the best of times and the worst of times is a leap.  It's only after we take that leap, that faith can grow and blossom and mature and bear fruit.

Cast your bread upon the waters.  Invest in others generously and freely, with no conditions or requirements.  Don't only do good if you know you shall receive approval and recognition and praise, or you know you shall see immediate results, or you know your resources will be used the way you want them to, or that the results of casting your bread will meet your expectations or standards.

This is not the way of the Lord.  This is about control, not trusting in God.  The bottom line is that results, outcomes are God's business, not ours.  Our business is casting the bread.  God will let us know in His good time what became of what we did.  That's what the words “many days” in this passage means.  We shall see it or find it again in God's time and in God's way.   God's business is using what we cast for His purposes and glory.  Remember God's promise that nothing you do in the Lord's name, like casting your bread, is in vain.

You reap what you sow, cast your bread upon the waters, good words for life from the Lord. Amen. 

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