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Bible Animals

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.

Proverbs 6:6-8

"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 gets.

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 sluggard.

Sluggards let someone else do the work, pay the bills and take the responsibility. One of the favorite sluggard lines is, "Itís not my problem!"

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 any price.

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.

E. Note:

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.

Proverbs 6:6-8

"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 numerous.

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 combined.

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 job.

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 enormous
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 part.

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 opportunity.

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 harvest."

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.

6. This is no lack of trust in God. It is the forethought and preparation of a faithful and wise worker.


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 long.

3. May we all "Go to the antÖ.consider its ways and be wise!"

August 30-31, 2003 Wooddale Church

© Leith Anderson 2003

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