We have more options available and at our disposal today than at any time in human history. The sheer number of choices at any given time is staggering. Whether its the number of search results on your web browser or the jam packed menus offered by fast food chains, we are overwhelmed by variety, and it can create a paralysis of sorts.
Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 provides wisdom on how to assess and evaluate our choices. The goal of the text is a call to action to live life to its fullest when it would be easier to do nothing.
Send your grain across the seas,
and in time, profits will flow back to you.
But divide your investments among many places,
for you do not know what risks might lie ahead. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2)
The first two verses speak to the patience and diversification of investments. While they can be interpreted as investment counsel, the tone is broad enough to include the options we face when making any significant choice. In a culture that demands instant gratification and guaranteed results, we have to acknowledge that there are risks in life, the chief of which is incurred by non action.
When clouds are heavy, the rains come down.
Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls.
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. (Ecclesiastes 11:3-4)
These two verses brings together the things we can’t control and the things that call for firm action. The clouds and the tree may cause one to think about what may be or what might have been, but our business is to deal with the reality of what is and what is within our reach. Those who wait for ideal conditions may find themselves in a position where they either don’t take action or the action is taken too late. The things that are beyond our control can not become excuses for inaction.
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both. (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6)
The final two verses of this section again underscore the mysteries of life which are hidden by God, accentuated by a final challenge to engage in life. Uncertainty and mystery is the very environment of our world, so quit making excuses and procrastinating! The apostle Paul echoes this sentiment in a familiar passage in Ephesians 5:16, where he challenges us to “redeem the time” in these evil days. Making the most of the time we have should be top of mind for us each day, even though that time is uncertain and unpredictable. You never know what good can come from the action you take, but you do know what can be missed if you do nothing at all.