Not only does Paul tell us in Romans 1 that God has proven Himself through His physical creation, but throughout the Bible we are told to look at creation for specific lessons. The Lord Jesus, for example, tells us to examine the lilies in the field and the fowls in the air to learn of God’s love and provision. “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a mustard seed. So what does the mustard seed teach us? David said, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindufl of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
And then there is Solomon. Among other things, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” It does not take long to come up with things about ants which should instruct or rebuke God’s saints.
Solomon’s lesson for his son at this point is – don’t be lazy.
Didn’t Aesop have a fable about the ant and the grasshopper with a similar lesson? “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” “Sluggard” isn’t a word often used these days, and if it was we’d probably apply a new definition. Today’s sluggard might be a bully or a pugilist – slugging people on the playground or in the ring. But the Hebrew word means “sluggish” or “lazy” – slothful like a slow moving sloth. There is a Geico commercial where a sloth is playing Pictionary, but he’s so slow that all he can put on the board is a single line.
Solomon was a wealthy man and his children wouldn’t necessarily have to raise a finger for anything – ever. But God’s wise man knew the danger of lethargy, sloth and sluggishness even among the rich. He wanted his children to learn to work, work to learn and work to earn others peoples’ respect. So he pointed to the common ant – the ubiquitous ant – and said “learn from them.” You will never see a lazy ant.
What are some of the other lessons we might learn from the ant?
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:” Solomon suggests that ants take advantage of the season, harvesting and gathering when food is available. Some ants are omnivores – eating a variety of things, but many are only herbivores – they eat plants. In winter, most ants have a hard time finding food, so God has created him with the discernment to work diligently when the opportunity is there. She “provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Be like the ant Solomon suggests.
And the average ant doesn’t need a taskmaster, a boss, a slave-driver to keep him or her motivated. “Having no guide, overseer, or ruler” she does what is necessary, simply because it is necessary. Bro. Rodney Spears has several bee hives right beside his house; they are one of his hobbies. There are many lessons which can be gleaned from bees, and some are do to the fact they have a queen. But ants don’t have a perceivable, physical leader – one might say they have a spirit who directs them.
One of my weaknesses as your pastor is that I dislike telling you to do what should be obvious. I would rather think that as maturing Christians, you can see things which need to be done and you do them. I shouldn’t have to beg you to be in your place at 10:00 AM on Sunday morning – you should know it. I shouldn’t have to tell you a dozen times that this Saturday is men’s prayer meeting. Bro. Stewart shouldn’t have to shout out, “Come on now, let’s sing and praise the Lord with all your heart.” Jesus said, “The Father will send the comforter, the Holy Spirit, and He will become your guide, instructing you and motivating you into the fields which are already white unto harvest.” The ant knows what needs to be done and he does it, because his heart tells him.
Almost every year about this time, we have an ant problem here at the church. Sometimes its at the front door, sometimes in a bath room or even the water fountain, often in the apartment. They come into the building because their food supply is dying outside, so they come looking for water and grub. They are persistent – ants are diligent – they will not give up willingly. Perhaps that is a lesson Solomon should have shared with us. When there is a job to be done, the ant does not give up until it is done or he is dead.
A related lesson might be that ants don’t waste any time thinking about whatever project is to be done. It might be building, or digging out, a new nest; it might be finding a new source of water or food. Other than running one of her forelegs over her antenna, she doesn’t spend much time in grooming. She isn’t worried about her appearance. And she doesn’t watch television, the internet, or the sky, or the dog when there is work to be done. And if you put some obstacle in her way, she will often just climb over it or go around it to get back to where she intended to go. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”
Obviously, the ant is a small creature, and our problem ants here in the building are almost microscopic. But when a hundred of those little creatures get together on a project, they get it done. They cooperate. Their colony might be looked at like a church – except there is no formal under-shepherd. If there is the need of a new auditorium, a thousand little ants get together and build it. If the parking lot is littered with pine needles, a hundred ants can get the job done in an hour, whereas a single ant might get discouraged and quit. (I’m speaking metaphorically). It should never be that 10% of the church membership does 90% of the work. Ie, when every member tithes, even if individually it is only a widow’s mite, the expenses will be met. United service, blessed by the Lord, makes for mighty service.
But to sort of contradict what I just said, doesn’t the average ant have strength beyond its size? I have read that the average ant can carry between 10 and 50 times its own body weight. Taking the low number, that would be equivalent of me lifting 2000 pounds. And I have read that ants can run at the rate of 800 times its body length in a minute. That is equivalent to about 100 miles an hour – not bad for a car, but impossible for a human being. Where does the ant get her strength? Wasn’t it given to her by the Creator? And hasn’t the same Creator/God told the saint that we can do greater things than we’ve ever imagined? Through the Lord, we have strength to move mountains. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Our problem is not our lack of strength, but our lack of faith and willingness to be used of the Lord.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” Look at the way the ant are good and using tools and even pets. They are known to cut down sticks or leaves to use as bridges to cross rivulets. And their symbiotic relationship with aphids is well known. Some ants farm aphids, protecting them from predators and eating the honeydew the aphids make. They even stroke the smaller insect comforting them and encouraging them to produce more “milk.”
I am sure that with a little more thought we could come up with other lessons and illustrations. But my last one for tonight is that ants successfully endure the hard times. There is not a year that goes by, her food source doesn’t dry up and she becomes totally on God and what she has stored up. Do you suppose she runs around all winter crying “Woe is me,” rubbing away her tears? How many of her six hands does she wring in worry? How much sleep does she loose? The ant merely goes about her duties in the midst of her difficulties, awaiting the return of the Lord’s blessings.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” What is that which the Lord has put into your hands? Money? A skill? A talent? Retirement time? “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? When will you put into use the gift God has given you? Use it or loose it. “So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”