Be Wise… like an ant? (Proverbs 6:6-11)

Having warned us against offering collateral, and of being tied up by our own words, Proverbs 6 moves on to a subject it will return too fairly often – laziness.

Go to the ant, you sluggard.

    Consider her ways, and be wise;

7 which having no chief, overseer, or ruler,

8     provides her bread in the summer,

    and gathers her food in the harvest.

9 How long will you sleep, sluggard?

    When will you arise out of your sleep?

10 A little sleep, a little slumber,

    a little folding of the hands to sleep:

11 so your poverty will come as a robber,

    and your scarcity as an armed man.

Proverbs 6:6-11 WEB

Verses six to eight begin by pointing to the ant as our example. This is, on the surface, a rather strange comparison. What can we – humans created in the image of God – learn from the humble ant? Quite a bit it seems!

Verse 6 is addressed to a lazy man – a sluggard. He is directed to look at the ways of the ant, and to “be wise.” You may not think of yourself as a “sluggard,” but a wise person does indeed look around, consider other ways and learn from them. Even if you are not lazy, do not skip over these words – instead, be wise and learn!

Verse 7 tells us that the ant has no chief, overseer or king. This is important because it shows us that despite this, the collective group of ants  – a “colony” I’m told – appears to operate collaboratively and as one. Take the same number of people, set them a task and don’t elect a leader, and you will have chaos! Somehow, the colony of ants know what needs to be done and they work together to achieve it. it is as astonishing miracle when you think of it. God, as Creator, has given them the ability to work together in this way, and to even plan ahead. These are lessons we can all learn.

Verse 8 is key here. It tells us that he ant provides her food in the summer, and gathers in at harvest time to see herself through winter. Under God’s sovereign control, the ant enjoys the good of the summer and yet plans ahead to see itself through the harder winters.

To be like the ant, we must do the same. I imagine an individual who is self-employed. They may be enjoying a time of abundance right now, with lots of work and good money coming in. a wise person would not just enjoy this time, but would prepare for times when the income may fall.

My father-in-law is a butcher and runs a village shop. He knows that in the run up to Christmas, he will make a lot of sales and be extremely busy. Likewise, in the summer, he knows he will sell much produce for barbeques and parties. He also knows that January and February are quiet months, with little trade. To survive, he must ensure that the summer takings and Christmas abundance see him through the more difficult winter months.

Enjoy the good times of course, but store up in preparation for the bad times #wisdom

Verses 9 and 10 then go on to warn of the dangers of “sleep.” Now, to be clear, these verses are not saying sleep is a bad thing and we should not do it. Clearly, it is right and biblical to get sufficient amounts of rest. The warning here is against sleeping too much – it is about lazing about instead of getting up to work. I reiterate that rest is important, but so is putting in a good day’s work. There is danger in the extremes; too much rest and you fall into the temptation of laziness, too little rest and you risk making yourself ill and unproductive.

Verse 10 does say “a little sleep,” implying that even a little sleep is dangerous. I may be incorrect, but would qualify this as a “little sleep at the wrong time…” is dangerous. If, for example, my boss walks into my office and sees me asleep at my desk, then the argument that I was only asleep for a few minutes probably won’t wash. A good eight hours of sleep in bed at night is a good thing, but even 8 minutes when we should be working is bad.

Verse 11 concludes the section giving quite a stark picture of poverty. Laziness leads to poverty; particularly in a society where you were dependent on working the land for survival. If you do not work, you do not eat, because the land will not yield its fruit to you unaided. To be lazy is to allow poverty to creep up on you like an armed man. When faced with a robber holding a weapon, you have little choice but to do as they say. In a similar way, laziness leads to poverty, and this leaves little choice in life.

For us in the modern world, this danger may not seem so real. Many have access to credit cards and loans, and so if one loses their job, they can rely on debt to see them through. Similarly, if loans and credit are not open to you, then the Government provide benefits to help out. We can debate if use of credit or to rely on benefits is a good thing or not, but clearly these are intended to be temporary measures. You cannot live your life on credit, charging one purchase after the next, without it one day catching up with you.

I write this at a time when interest rates are rising, and energy prices in the UK are skyrocketing. I want to be clear that I am not saying you are lazy if you are struggling to pay your bills! Far from it! Many people are struggling financially right now, and are working extremely hard to make ends meet. The point here is that laziness leads to poverty, but that does not mean that poverty equals laziness.

Let each of us examine our lives in the light of God’s Word. We all have lazy days or times of lower productivity due to a variety of reasons. When laziness becomes a habit however, this is when it becomes a real problem. As I said above, the opposite extreme is just as risky, so we each need to work hard and rest well.

An ant may be a tiny thing, and yet it has much to teach us. Let us open our eyes, and learn from God’s Creation. We must “be wise” just like the ant!

Thanks for reading.

Plan Ahead

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.

    The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)

We take a little break from our series on Psalm 100, and turn to look at one of the proverbs today.

As a rule, I try to read a chapter of Proverbs every day. It is something I heard of a while back – that there are enough chapters of Proverbs to reach one each day of the month, namely 31. You read chapter one on the first of the month, chapter two on the second, and so on. It is the 22nd May today, and this particular verse nudged me.

Proverbs is frequently comparing the actions of the wise with the actions of the foolish. A wise person does one thing, while the fool does something quite the opposite. The same is true here.

A prudent (or wise) person sees danger coming, and makes preparation to either avoid or suppress it. The foolish person however, charges straight into its path.

On a practical level, there is much we can apply to our own lives. It is wise to save for a rainy day, or to address the blinking red engine light on your car’s dashboard before you see smoke in the rear view. When we see a sign that says, “Icy road ahead,” it is a good idea to slow down or find an alternative route.

There are many examples we could look at here. What might be on your horizon that you need to prepare for? If you already know it is coming, then don’t put off getting ready. Act today to make sure when that “thing” comes, whatever it may be, you are well prepared to deal with it.

In the same chapter of Proverbs, we read:

The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there!

    If I go outside, I might be killed!”

Proverbs 22:13 (NLT)

This is quite the imagery, and not immediately obvious perhaps. It is astonishing at times, the excuses you hear from people who are just trying to get out of something. I have seen individuals spend enormous amounts of energy trying to avoid something, far more energy than it would have taken to just do the thing in the first place. Here, we see someone who doesn’t want to go outside, and perhaps does not wish to leave their warm bed. Instead of crying wolf, they cry “lion!”

It is all too easy to put off preparing for the future. When we are in our twenties, saving for a pension may not seem all that important, but of course we hear many stories of those who left it too late. When we see danger ahead of us, we must take necessary action.

But what about when we do not see it coming? What if all seems well and we do not know what is around the next corner?

What if you had a friend who could somehow warn you of what is ahead? That would be truly wonderful!

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

John 16:13 (NKJV)

Here we read that the Holy Spirit will tell you of the things that are to come. We can draw on this revelation knowledge and be pre-warned of things that we need to prepare for. These may be dangers of course, but they may also be opportunities.

I want to be so close to God the Spirit that I hear Him directing me. I want to be in the exact place He wants me to be. If there is a chance for me to serve Him in some way, then I want to be prepared to do that.

Join with me in praying that the Spirit of Christ will guide us:

Holy Spirit, we thank You that You are our Advocate, Helper and Friend. May You guide us in all things, showing us the things that are to come so that we might be ready. If there is danger up ahead, we pray that You would help us avoid it, if it be Your will. If there are opportunities to minister Your grace, please give us the words we need to share Your truth. Above all, help us to draw ever closer to You in worship and prayer, and that through Your guidance, You may be truly glorified in our lives. In the Name of Jesus, Amen!

Thanks so much for reading today.