In the book of Proverbs we are asked to pay attention to ants and learn from them. Ants outnumber us. In New York City the ant population compared to human population is nearly 800 to 1. That’s almost 1.2 billion ants in a city with a population of 1.6 million people. They live off of the food that New Yorkers throw away. In the book of Proverbs ants are described as foragers (Proverbs 6:7-8):
“It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
Looking at the behavior patterns of these industrious critters, we find that they know how to collaborate, forage nutrients and create storage. While an ant colony may only eat ounces a day, it can harvest pounds destined for storage.
I am amazed by the sheer amount of work these tiny insects can accomplish, but I don’t believe our take away from ants is: ‘Let’s immerse ourselves in work.’ Sometimes we use work as an excuse to avoid important issues at home. Or we hide our stagnant faith behind charity work. Oswald Chambers calls this ‘spiritual sluggishness’ and writes: “Active work may be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The danger of spiritual sluggishness is that we do not wish to be stirred up, all we want to hear about is spiritual retirement. Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement”
In other words we never stop wrestling in our faith. That’s how we grow. And since ants are our role models, let us take a closer look at them. A couple of things I noticed as I studied them in more detail: one is collaboration, the other is separation.
- Collaboration: It’s astonishing to see how millions of ants can work together so seamlessly. Ants communicate with each other using chemical signals, called pheromones. They use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails behind so that other ants can follow them to the food source.
- Separation: Ants stay together to support their colony, however, to grow beyond one colony some ants must find new territory. Here is where wings come in handy. Only males and queens have wings, so it’s their responsibility to spread its kind; and for that reason they desert their home base when the time arrives.
While collaboration and separation seem mutually exclusive, they do go hand in hand. For obvious reasons we need each other – and yet, there will be times in our life when we have to separate to embark on the things God has in mind for us. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:10):
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We don’t want to be just busy but also productive. Metaphorically speaking we are fruit trees and the Lord wants to see us yielding a bountiful crop. We all have a job to do, a job that He has prepared for us.
Be encouraged to follow the Lord when He beckons you, even if this means you need to go out on a limb. Don’t be shy – spread your wings and fly! If ants can do it, you can do it.