Despite its diminutive size, the ant is a remarkable creature known for its skill, foresight, industry and economy. Though it is inferior in many respects to sinful man, this humble insect has many lessons to teach us.
Scripture commends the ant as an example worthy of our emulation. In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon counselled the sluggard to learn from the ant: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Prov 6: 7-8).
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard”
A sluggard is one who loves sleep (Prov 6: 9-10). He is described as one who loves his bed so much that he loathes to leave it (Prov 26: 14). A sluggard is idle and makes every excuse to avoid work (Prov 26: 14; 21: 25-26). He has many unfulfilled dreams and wishes: “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing” (Prov 13: 4a).
Since the sluggard is too lazy to go to school, one is found for him. He is to learn from one as weak and as insignificant as the ant: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard” (v 6a). It is ironical that man, the crowning glory of God’s creations, needs to learn from such a lowly creature.
“Consider her ways, and be wise”
The tiny ant has lessons not only for the sluggard, but for all of us. We are exhorted to “consider her ways, and be wise” (v 6b). Among the ant’s remarkable “ways” are wisdom, foresight and diligence.
As the ants have “no guide, overseer, or ruler” to inspect their work or to call them to account, it will be easy for them to excuse themselves (v 7). Yet they work willingly, tirelessly and industriously – providing “her meat in the summer” and gathering “her food in the harvest” (v 8).
It is likely that the ants referred to here are the agricultural or harvester ants which are common in the coastal regions of Israel. These ants collect seeds in the summer and store them in underground galleries.
Besides working hard, these ants possess the natural wisdom to use their opportunities well. Taking advantage of the fittest season – summer – to harvest and store up grain, they provide plentifully for their time of need.
Though the summer months are hot, making work trying and laborious, the ant “does not indulge in ease, nor pleasure, as the grasshopper, that sings and sports in the summer and then perishes in the winter” (Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary).
The ant’s amazing and remarkable ways are aptly summed up by Rev A R Faussett: “The ant does not borrow or beg, nor is it starved by neglecting to provide for its wants in time, but of its own accord burns with zeal for toil, without any one urging it. All the ants move on the same path. The ants that are without a load make way for those most laden. The burden which would be too difficult to carry they divide … They construct their houses and cells underground, and fill their stores with grain, and have channels sunk to drain off the rain, and if their food becomes wet, they bring it out to dry … A host of ants seek and bring in the grain; others sort the materials, strip off the useless envelopes of seed or grain, and carry them out to throw away” (Faussett’s Bible Dictionary).
The ant is a weak and lowly creature which is often despised by many. Yet the Bible directs us to learn wisdom from this remarkable insect.
Because of their wisdom, foresight and diligence, ants have no lack, even in the winter months. Though these tiny creatures have no one to guide or oversee their work, they labour relentlessly to provide for themselves.
Ants know how take advantage of the right season to harvest their crops so that they will have sufficient food for the winter. Like the humble ant, we must use our opportunities well. We ought also to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5: 15-16).
King Solomon exhorts us to “consider her ways, and be wise” (v 6b). Let us learn from the feeble ant, lessons of prudence, industry and discipline so that we can provide for ourselves and our family. May we also be diligent to care for our souls and the things of eternity. Do not be like the sluggard who loves his sleep and idles his time away: “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” (vv 9-10). May the Lord help us to apply these precious lessons from the humble ant to our daily lives.