Lessons from Nature Day 3: A Life of Labor – The Ant
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8, ESV)
Imagine showing up on your first day of work at a new job. The job description was a little hazy coming into it, but now you’re getting all the details. You have to work for approximately 24 hours every day. During those 24 hours you are allowed 250 breaks. One hitch, though—they can be no longer than 1 minute each. So, technically, you “only” have to work for just under 20 hours per day. And think about how fun those 250 power naps are going to be! And another thing—there really isn’t any sort of retirement plan. Once you’re too worn out to work anymore, you can sort of hang out in the corner of the office until you die. How excited are you?
In general, that is the life of the common ant. I find ants pretty fascinating and have often sat in awe watching them work. Full disclosure: I have also hated ants, poured gasoline into their colonies, and lit them on fire. So there’s that. But back to the subject at hand—ants know how to work; surely you’ve watched them work at some point, too. I remember watching a band of ants working over a dead dragonfly one time. The division of labor was very interesting. Some workers chewed and cut the dragonfly into segments; some dragged it toward their colony. When they got closer, other workers chewed and cut it into smaller segments. More workers emerged and pulled the small segments into the colony to feed everyone. The whole process left me with a little understanding of what it means to really work, and to work for the benefit of others. While each individual worker ant certainly benefited from what was being brought into the colony, what each was doing was generally to benefit thousands of other ants doing different tasks. It’s no wonder Solomon used the ant as an object lesson for his readers.
First lesson—don’t be lazy. This world continues to condition us to spend a lot of our time being couch potatoes; everything is done for us. Just ask Alexa! At bedtime, I simply say, “Alexa, night,” which turns off the lights and turns on the fan. That’s pretty lazy, I’m aware of that! Much of society sits back and expects others to work for them while they do nothing. That’s nothing like the ant!
Second lesson—be prepared. The ants might seem like they work too much. Why not sit back and relax for a couple of days? They work because they know food isn’t a guarantee for them. They store up as much as they can, knowing that someday they might not find anything. If nothing is stored up, their entire colony could die, so they work! The practical lesson for us is not to be wasteful, and to consider the possibility of a “rainy day.” What happens if we aren’t prepared for it and have nothing? Be prepared.
Third lesson—serve others. Sure, maybe you’ll get some benefit along the way, and that’s fine. But think of all those ants working relentlessly for the good of the thousands of other ants in the colony. One isn’t thinking of itself; it’s doing what it can to help its fellow ants. Isn’t that what we should be doing in life? Our culture constantly seems to affirm completely different values: help yourself; take care of yourself first. This is against the lesson of the ant and, far more importantly, against the character of Christ. Wasn’t His life here characterized by service for others? You never read of Him seeking His own needs before the needs of others. From His miracles, His teachings, and His death, His life was filled with examples of serving others first. If only I were more like the ant—and more like Christ!
Fourth lesson—don’t quit. For every believer, I encourage you to never “retire” as a Christian. Ants essentially retire only because they physically cannot work anymore. But for a believer, even if we cannot physically do some of the things we used to, there is always work that a believer can do. You can always encourage others, at the very least. And as long as the mind is still sharp, you can still share the gospel. Never let your foot off the gas in your life as a Christian!
So the next time you see that anthill, maybe give some consideration to those hard-working ants and learn from their life of labor!