“Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers provision in harvest.”
It’s a powerful little picture Solomon paints, is it not? Why aren’t ants hungry all winter long, buried beneath the cold, hard soil with no food to eat? Because they worked hard during the rest of the year – stripping, foraging, and storing away food! And we should go to them, Solomon says, and observe them, and be wise. How so? What do the ants have to teach us?
Among other things, they give us a warning against idleness. Again, the reason why the ants are not hungry in winter is because they are not idle in summer and fall! They’re busy! In fact, if you literally determine to go to the ants, you will find that this seems to be their hallmark. Brush back the edges of any ant-hill and you will find hundreds of the little fellows, crawling this way and that, always being productive.
Solomon says there is a lesson in that! Busy people succeed. Idle people struggle (see Proverbs 6.10). And that’s true on more than one level. It’s true, first of all, on the simple level of making ends meet. The ants have enough food because they work … hard. And the lesson is plain. We must work hard, too. We must be busy with our hands, making ends meet. And if we do not – if we are idle – we’ll suffer for it in our stomachs. That’s not to say that idleness is the only reason why people struggle financially. There are many reasons. Indeed, some of the hardest working people are forced to live from paycheck to paycheck. But the fact remains that, if we are lazy and sedentary, things will only be worse! Idleness causes hungry stomachs and empty bank accounts.
But idleness also causes suffering of a different kind. I think it is fair to say, after 12 years of pastoral counseling – both with Christians, and unbelievers – that a significant number of the sin problems people deal with would be largely solved if the persons in question had a little more responsibility on their plates. For instance, gossip is usually at its worst among people who have little else to do with their time (1 Tim 5.13). In addition, sinful fretting over this and that, and obsessions with what other people do or think, and bitterness over past hurts, all seem to lay down their deepest roots in the empty soil of long days with nothing productive to claim our time. Also, the people with the biggest substance abuse problems are often the same folks who have far too much time on their hands. Addiction to pornography and video games occurs most in young men who have all evening every evening to do a whole lot of nothing. Overeating is often largely a product of boredom. And the list could go on … proving the old adage that ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop.’ It’s an old adage because it’s true!
Does that mean that, if we’ll just get busy, all our sin habits will fade away? No! Our sin problems have, as their ultimate root, our sin natures … which will not disappear no matter how busy we may be. The busiest people in the world are still sinners. But they probably don’t have time to sit on the phone and talk bad about other people. They probably don’t have time to tool around for hours on the internet. And so, while their busyness in no way eradicates their sin nature, it certainly does give that nature less free time to work with!
So let us all consider the ants, and get busy. There are far too many people who need encouragement; far too many ministries that need helpers; far too many tongues, tribes, peoples, and nations that need praying for; and far too many Bible truths that need studying for any of us to spend too much time twiddling our thumbs! Let us redeem the time, therefore. We’ll get a good example if we “go to the ant”!