Bible Animals #4
"Work like an ant"Proverbs 6:6-8
1. Last week we were in Mozambique. In this southwestern African
country there is both tragedy and triumph. It is one of the poorest nations in
the world. 17.5% of the adult population is HIV positive. There are tens of
thousands of orphans. Yet, the number of people becoming Christians in the
midst of tragedy is breathtaking. Some say the church of Jesus Christ is
growing faster in Mozambique than anywhere in the world.
2. In Mozambique we were served ants for breakfast one day. They were
optional . . . sort of a side dish. The ants are captured, boiled and then deep
fried. Mine tasted better than you might imagine ―
crisp like KFC with a honey-like sweetness to the juice inside. Youíll
have to try one some time. Perhaps some day General Mills or Nabisco will
package and sell deep fried ants as a snack food to hungry Americans.
3. I wondered if I ought to feel guilty about ant-eating because ants are
heroes of God. Listen to the way they are described by the wise sage in the Old
Testamentís Proverbs 6.
"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no
commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and
gathers its food at harvest."
4. Most of us donít think of ourselves as sluggards, and few of us think
that an ant could teach us anything. So, letís ask ourselves the question,
"Are you a sluggard?" and take a quick four-point quiz.
I. Are you a sluggard?
A. Do the wrong thing
1. Usually we think of a sluggard as someone who doesnít do anything, but
everyone does something. Even if you sleep 23 hours per day, you are doing
something ― sleeping!
It is possible to be a very busy sluggard. The busy sluggard spends
many hours working hard at not working.
Some busy sluggards develop elaborate reasons not to improve their
marriage, not to go to work, not to get healthy or not to pay their bills. If
they spent equivalent time and energy doing the right things, they could save
their marriages, keep their jobs, get in shape and get out of debt.
It is hard work to consistently do what is right. Some sluggards just canít
be bothered and often do the wrong thing.
B. Misuse resources
1. Some sluggards are wonderfully gifted but terribly misuse their resources.
We all know the type: bright but a poor student; high potential but low
performance; plenty of money but badly squandered.
The sluggard never thinks he has enough. Instead of using what he has,
he waits for more. If he gets more, he is likely to squander what he
Great inheritances can destroy a sluggard. She will not use it
wisely. It will soon be gone.
Lottery winners frequently destroy their lives, damage their families
and end up in debt.
The sluggard seldom appreciates the blessings of God and rarely uses
those blessings well.
C. Let others do it
1. Some sluggards work hard when they must but readily allow others to
carry a disproportionate share of the load.
The sluggard does not pick up litter Ė let someone else do it.
The sluggard does not wash the dishes Ė let someone else do it.
The sluggard does not volunteer in church and community Ė let someone
else do it.
The sluggard does not advance the business Ė let someone else do it.
A physician told me a story from his residency. One of his patients
was wearing a portable heart monitor when he went into cardiac arrest. When
the medical team ran to his rescue, the bed was empty and they couldnít
find him. While they searched the ward, he died. Later his body was
discovered between his bed and the wall. They asked his roommate if he knew
where he was, and he said yes, but no one really asked him. He was a
Sluggards let someone else do the work, pay the bills and take the
responsibility. One of the favorite sluggard lines is, "Itís not my
D. Just plain lazy
1. Then there are sluggards who are just plain lazy. They donít
like to work. They donít want to work. All they think about is
themselves. Very selfish sluggards.
2. "Lazy sluggard" is redundant because sluggard means lazy. But,
thatís what they are ― lazy
sluggards. Almost all work is avoided at all times at just about
3. Some lazy sluggards blame others. Every problem they have is
someone elseís fault. Sadly, the lazy sluggard may actually believe what
he says. He does not see himself as a sluggard; he sees himself as a
victim of the attitudes and actions of others.
1. Most of us donít think weíre sluggards; we think we are
overworked, over- achieving workaholics. "We donít work too little,
we work too much."
The truth is that there is some sluggard in us all. We all have a
tendency to take the easy way, to get more money so we can work less, to
take unfair advantage of others.
We all need to go to the ant, consider its ways and be wise.
"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has
no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest."
II. Consider the ant
A. Small but smart
1. Ants are comparatively little. In an animal world with soaring eagles
and thundering elephants, ants arenít much. But they are smart, and they are
2. Almost 9000 species of ants.
3. In the Amazon rain forest ants are so numerous that their total weight
is four times the weight of all mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians
Some ant super colonies are one square mile with 45,000 interconnected
nests and more than 300 million ants.
Theyíre small but wise. They work together, flourish under
adversity and provide enormous benefit to ecosystems (aerate soils, dig
water tunnels, fertilize seeds, etc.).
In Mozambique we stopped to visit one of the many roadside ant hills.
They are large and hard (I kicked one, and it was like kicking concrete.) A
woman came from a nearby village with a pick ax to chop a hole for us to see
inside. The ants heard the noise, ran downstairs, hid underground, and we
saw the inside of a nearly empty ant hill. Wise! Small but smart.
Lesson for us sluggards: Itís not what youíve got; itís what you do
with what youíve got. Even if small and insignificant, leverage your
resources. Be wise. Work smart. Be part of the team.
B. Does its part
1. Ant colonies are organized around division of labor. Every ant has
a job to do.
2. Queen ant lays eggs. The African Driver Ant lays 3-4 million eggs per
month. She lives almost 7 years. Can you imagine being the mother of 300 million
children? Thatís her job to do.
3. Male ants mate and die. Short life (perhaps only a few months).
Thatís their job.
4. Female worker ants dig tunnels, collect and process food and care for
other ants. Thatís their job.
5. The ant colony survives and thrives as long as every ant works to do its
6. We sluggards need to do our part.
Example: Management: If you are the boss, your part includes good
working conditions and fair wages for employees. Your part is not just to
make a profit but to help others succeed in doing their part.
7. August 14, 2003 Blackout darkened much of northeastern USA and caused
strains on our commercial airlines. USA Today reported that one airline
handled the crisis better than any other ―
Northwest. When baggage machines failed, employees moved luggage by hand. When
jetways couldnít move, workers rolled up stairs. When airports were closed,
flights were diverted. When Detroit Metro couldnít cater meals, they were
flown in from MSP. Just like the ants in the Bible ― everyone doing its
C. Internally motivated
1. Proverbs 6:7
"It has no commander, no overseer or ruler."
Ant colonies have no king. When an ant dies, the others carry away
the body. When under attack, the soldiers come to fight. When the hill caves
in, workers rush to rebuild. When invaded, a warning is issued. Ants are
internally motivated. Wired to work. They donít need to be told what to
do. They just do what needs to be done.
In Johannesburg I met some people like ants. They work with people
suffering from AIDS. They bring food. They baby sit children. They offer
counsel. They get medical help. They are part of a Christian ministry headed
by an amazing woman with the unlikely first name of "Waitress."
South Africa has 40% unemployment. The AIDS volunteers are mostly unemployed
and canít get jobs because there are few jobs to get. But they are
internally motivated to work ― specific
hours; regular training; difficult duties. They work to help others in the
name of Jesus.
Be like the ant. Work like the volunteers. Donít wait to be
recruited. Donít wait for someone to tell you what to do. Donít look for
a commander or overseer or ruler. Just do what needs to be done.
D. Seizes todayís opportunities
1. Minnesotans know that ants are normally a summer phenomenon. They
show up at Fourth of July picnics but never at snowmobile races.
2. Ants must gather food when it is available. The biblical ant was
probably the Harvester Ant which is common in the Middle East. They gather
seeds when the season is right and bring them to the colony for future
processing. If they donít gather the seeds in season, it is too late, and
the colony starves.
3. Sluggards are always waiting for a better tomorrow. Ants seize todayís
4. When I was a young pastor in Colorado, the church needed a part-time
custodian. The only applicant was an out-of-work executive. It wasnít
his dream job. The pay was inadequate. He lived with his family in a house by
the tracks that literally shook when the trains regularly went by. He was an
excellent custodian. He did a great job. He was my co-worker and colleague. He
seized that dayís opportunity.
5. Why does the ant do this? Because ants prepare for the future.
E. Prepares for the future
1. Proverbs 6:8
"It stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at
2. The ant is getting ready for winter, for drought, for famine or
for whatever tomorrow may bring.
3. One of the clearest characteristics of sluggards is lack of
preparation for the future. Ants and other good workers do not just
live for today but also prepare for tomorrow.
4. Donít spend all you make. Save for the future.
5. Donít live only for the moment. Think ahead.
It is the forethought and
preparation of a faithful and wise worker.
6. This is no lack of trust in God.
1. On the first Monday of every September our nation celebrates Labor Day. It
is to honor those who work hard for a living. Not because they are famous or
rich or powerful, but because they work. Work is honorable and good. Blessed
are all who labor.
2. With God, every day is a "labor day" to honor all who work ―
from the industrious ant in its hill to the employees in the high rise. Labor
union workers. Company managers. Farmers. Mechanics. Clerks. Physicians.
Nurses. Teachers. Students. Truck drivers. Homemakers. Soldiers. Pilots.
Self-employed. Job seekers. Engineers. Maintenance workers. Clerks. CEOís.
Accountants. Writers. Musicians. Technicians. Administrators. The list is
3. May we all "Go to the antÖ.consider its ways and be wise!"
August 30-31, 2003 Wooddale Church
© Leith Anderson 2003