What Does Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters Mean?

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters Meaning

Definition: To do something kind or good without expecting anything in return.

If you cast your bread upon the waters, you do good deeds for others without expecting anything in return.

Origin of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

This expression comes from the Bible, in Ecclesiastes 11.

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.

If the clouds are full of rain,

they empty themselves on the earth,

and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,

in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.

He who observes the wind will not sow,

and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

The interpretation is that if a person is generous and shares with others, God will reward him or her. Others interpret this to mean that you shouldn’t refrain from an action because you fear the future.

Examples of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

bible cast your bread upon the waterIn the following example, a woman uses the idiom while talking about her son.

Kerry: What happened to all of Robby’s old toys?

Christine: Well, I like to try to cast my bread upon the waters. I’m trying to teach Robby about the importance of generosity from an early age. Since he wasn’t playing with the toys anymore, we donated them to some kids in need.

Kerry: I love that idea!

cast thy bread upon the watersIn this dialogue, a woman uses the idiom while discussing her religious beliefs.

Arlena: We were studying something in my Bible group. It’s the expression about casting your bread upon the waters.

Nyima: Oh, yeah, we study that in Judaism too.

Arlena: I still don’t really get it.

Nyima: I guess it means different things to different people. I think the important part is just to be generous, even if you want to save up your money or possessions for hard times. It’s sort of like the idea of good karma. If you are generous, others will be generous to you as well.

Arlena: Oh, that makes sense.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a woman who wants to do what she can to help improve education. She doesn’t expect any gratitude, however.      

Spellings, 51, will stay until her younger daughter finishes high school. She’ll “continue to be part of the warriors in common cause for leaving no child behind” through consulting and public speaking.

  • “I don’t plan to dive into some 80-hour-a-week, full-time job,” she says. “Obviously I can run something. … I’m just going to cast my bread upon the waters.” –USA Today

This excerpt uses the idiom in a movie review. The author describes how actors sang in the movie.

  • And if you ask, “What’s the gain?” we know that it doesn’t change Israel’s image in the world… But I believe in “Cast your bread upon the waters.” If, one day, there will be a government there, and on both sides of the border there will be people who will say to themselves, “We know from the past that we can gain from these mutual ties,” that will be our reward. –Times of Israel


To cast one’s bread upon the waters is an expression that means to give generously without worrying about what you will gain from it or what the people will do with what you give them.