Learning from the Ants

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (Prov 6:6)

The book of Proverbs has so many great lessons for life. One very well known lesson is that we can learn from so many people, animals and things useful tools for life. The ant provides a great lesson in industriousness. An ant can lift things many times more than its body weight. Ants work hard and don’t rest. A great message to the lazy person is to look to the ant for inspiration. To teach us the danger of laziness in our lives, God points us to an unlikely teaching source. “Go to the ant”, He tells us, to learn valuable lessons.

About Ants

There are thousands of species of ants in the world.  There are very small ants that can build a colony between sheets of office paper.  There are ants that heard insects called aphids, the way people heard cows for their milk.  There are ants that cut leaves, and grow fungus on them as a form of food.  Some ants live in small groups, others in huge colonies.

The ants that are referred to in Proverbs 6:6 are called Harvester Ants.  They live along the Mediterranean Sea in the land of Israel, and they go out and gather grain.  They remove the grain from its husk and store it in their colonies storage area.  They can be seen working all though the harvest seasons, so that they have food to eat in the winter.

I grew up in an African environments and several times, we had invasions of ants in our house.  It is not a bad invasion, but there are some little black ants that appear about this time of year every year.  They look around for anything sweet – spilled sugar, anything sweet left out,  a drop of honey etc.  When they find it they somehow call on their brothers and sisters who come to have a feast.  I don’ t know how they communicate – they do not have tiny little cell phones.  Scientists say that Ants communicate by giving off chemical smells. These ants would get into our nice traditional soft drink made out of corn and wild roots called “munkoyo” in Tonga – a language from southern Zambia. The product is called “Chibwantu”. Our eleders would tell us to just take our drink even if there were ants in there. They said it was medicine for the stomach to encourage us.

Well, we were not that happy with this lesson in proverbs in our house, and we made sure that we removed all the tasty things and washed all the dishes.  It sometimes helps to wash the dishes, counters and window sills with vinegar.  They don’t like vinegar.

Recently, scientists have discovered something else that we can learn from ants. Ants have been recorded performing “helpful acts”. So far, only dolphins, capuchin monkeys and now ants act in this way.

In a sophisticated scenario, ants were able to learn a new skill with an unfamiliar barrier to rescue fellow ants. The ants would not rescue other types of ants or insects.

This gives a whole new meaning to learning from the ant. We can also learn how important it is to save each other. How vital it is to feel such a connection that we go to great lengths to rescue one another.

Rescue is not limited to a guy stuck under a huge boulder or a drowning swimmer. Rescue means to be concerned with all parts of another’s life. In our world today,  we are taught to mind our own business. This is true to an extent, but when someone needs help or assistance or guidance we need to learn from the ant and provide it.

My point is, we need to learn from the ant. We cannot sit by idly when our brethren are suffering and crying for help. We are responsible to each other and have a duty to act when we see injustice and unnecessary suffering. It is time to pull back the sheet and at the cost of exposing wrong-doers, save and rescue the one’s who need us most.

What can we learn from the ants?

Ants teach us how to be self-motivated. “Which, having no captain, overseer, or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest” (Prov 6:7-8). No one carries a whip behind the ant to ensure the work gets done. There are no time sheets/cards in the anthill. No ant mothers nag their babies to get out of bed. These creatures are self-motivated, and need no captain to ensure they get their work done. Why? Their work is for their own good! As Christians, maturity means we no longer need someone standing behind us, Bible in hand, to ensure our work gets done, our moral purity is not compromised, or that we continue to assemble with the saints.

Ants teach us to look ahead. “Provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest” (Prov 6:8). In the summer and in the harvest, food is plentiful. Yet the ant refuses to take her ease—instead working harder, storing up against the coming time of scarcity. “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer” (Prov 30:25). One of our great failings is only looking at the few meters in front of our nose—not preparing for the future or considering the consequences of our action—and inaction.

Ants teach us the value of hard work. As they provide and gather, Solomon looks at another man: “How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?” (Prov 6:9). He shows us the end of this man: “So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Prov 6:11). Laziness will lead to poverty, with precious few exceptions. But there are no poor ants! Their hard work sustains them! Christians need a willingness to work hard to earn their wages, and to work even harder to please their Lord. There is tremendous value in this! Many of us might prefer to just stay in bed, but working hard anyway will bless our lives physically and spiritually!

We must beware the propensity we have to be lazy—both physically and spiritually. Go to the ant! “Consider her ways and be wise”! Think on these things!

The Scriptures tell us that we need to be aware of the seasons.  We will have times in our lives when we have easy access to teaching, fellowship and worship with God’s people.  That is wonderful when it happens.  But there will also be dry times.  So you need to be storing up spiritual strength when you can, so that we will not starve in the dry periods. This takes many forms.  We need to learn how to pray – so that when we need to we can.  We need to develop good Christian friends – so that one of us is in need, the other is there to help.

We need to know that the scripture predicts times of hardship and persecution.  Are we headed toward a season of hardship for Christians?  I cannot say, but I can say, that now we ought to be gathering the harvest.




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