My mother often repeated to me a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes that says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” The passage speaks about the surety of investing in others – in Divine things. She also reiterated a narrative from her childhood that emphasized the point. It was a story about her great, great aunt, who we’ll call “Betty.”
In the late eighteen hundreds/early nineteen hundreds, aunt Betty’s Caucasian father and mother owned a large farm and employed a few sharecropper families who were Black. Economically, it wasn’t a prosperous time for anyone, and food was hand-to-mouth.
One of the Black families had a baby boy born “very weak” with a deficient constitution – “Andrew.” As the child grew older, he seemed to become more and more ill. The family had no money to pay for medical care or even proper food to eat. Finally, the parents had to quit working the farm just to care for him.
Knowing of the situation, Betty went to visit and saw the child horribly malnourished in addition to suffering from various maladies. She asked the parents if they would allow her to try and nurse him back to health at her expense. They joyfully agreed. Andrew was just three years old at the time. Betty took Andrew and admitted him to a hospital a short while later.
It took nearly five years for Andrew to recover fully. He learned to love Betty and was grateful for the chance she had given him to be a normal child. At the age of eight, he went back to live with his family, pronounced utterly healthy. He started working with his father on the farm, which continued into his adulthood.
Andrew grew into a tall, muscular, broad-shouldered man. Meanwhile, Betty contracted a disease the doctors could not cure, which was probably rheumatoid arthritis. As Andrew grew stronger and stronger, the woman who saved his life became weaker and weaker, eventually needing a cane and then a wheelchair.
Finally, the day came when Betty didn’t have the strength to push herself in the wheelchair and spent much of her time confined to bed. In despair, she would relate to her family how much she missed gardening and flowers.
When Andrew heard her desire, he decided to make it happen. He would go to Betty’s room, lift her from the bed to the wheelchair. Then he would take her to a car and drive her out on the property to her previous flower garden. There he would act for hours, day-after-day, as her legs and feet. She would express her desires, and he would manifest them for her. She died being lovingly served by the child she saved decades earlier.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Genuinely investing in people is messy, expensive, and painfully slow. But it does work, and the returns on investment are sky-high.
As a young pastor, my mother kept on repeating to me, “cast your bread.” I did. I still do. My mentor Brooks made a long-ball investment in me that continues to pay off today. As a result of his stake in my life, I’ve mentored hundreds of others.
We all get tempted to give up on folks. We’ve all put time, emotions, and money into people only to see little or no change. Did you consider it’s taken them (and you) countless re-births just to get here? No matter what you see, keep investing anyway! “Cast your bread!” It will come back.
I promise you – everything gets a return.