When I was a teenager, I painted a picture of a snowy scene with trees in the foreground and a farmhouse in the background. It was not a masterpiece, but even today when I look at it, I'm surprised at how good it was for a teenaged dabbler!
It was painted on canvas board, and on the back of it I wrote my name. I gave it to my grandparents as a Christmas gift one year. Fast forward about 20 years to when my grandfather had passed away, and my grandmother needed to downsize - that painting came back to me.
Around that time, I had some students who were trying to raise money for a missions trip. They were doing a yard sale, and were looking for donations of items to sell. I had just received this painting back, and thought, "Well, they might be able to get some money for it." So I gave them the painting. They sold it, and that was the end of the story...or so I thought.
A few years later I got a phone call from an elderly lady, and the call went something like this:
Her: "Is this Douglas?"
Her: "Are you an artist?"
Me: "Well, I wouldn't call myself an artist, but I do dabble in drawing and painting. Why?"
Her: "I think I have a painting of yours here." (She then went on to describe the painting, which I recognized as the winter scene)
Me: "Yes, that sounds like one of mine."
The conversation got a little odd at that point; the woman suggested that I might like to buy the painting from her. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on, but eventually she admitted that she goes around to yard sales looking for local artwork, figuring that the artist might be interested in buying their artwork back from her. Apparently she made some decent money doing this. I assured her that I had already given the painting away twice, so I wasn't exactly attached to it, and I was perfectly happy to have her keep it.
At that point, she decided that since she wasn't going to make any money off the painting, and she hadn't purchased it to display in her home, she might as well just give it back to me. So we arranged for me to pick it up the next day when I was passing by her home.
So now that picture, like a boomerang, has returned to me twice. It is now displayed in my office where I see it on a regular basis. Not because it's a masterpiece, but because it serves me as an object lesson of a verse in Ecclesiastes 11:
This is generally regarded as a symbolic picture of sowing seed; the word "bread" used here is a word which is also used for seed, and seed was often broadcast into the soil during the flooding season in low-lying areas. Thus, the meaning becomes, "Liberally toss seed, and you will be rewarded with a harvest."
I wonder if Jesus was thinking of this verse in Ecclesiastes when he said:
I'm not going to pretend that it always works like I described above; we can't expect that if we give object X away, we will get that exact thing returned to us, but it serves as a reminder to me that God treasures our generosity, and rewards it.
A couple verses later in Ecclesiastes 11, Solomon writes:
Understanding this to be a follow-up to verse one, we recognize that, if we watch too closely our own life circumstances, those circumstances may prevent us from the kind of generosity God desires. The picture is of generosity that is reckless and confident. Reckless because it takes no thought of our own circumstances, and confident because of our faith that God our provider is taking thought for our circumstances.