The Ant In The Bible

In the Bible, there is an account of a little ant who refused to help his brother, who was suffering from thirst. The suffering brother cried out for water to quench his burning throat, but the other replied that he would not lift a finger to help him. When the first one died, the other angel asked what their master would do with each of them. The second ant replied that he would punish the second one by making him a slave in charge of all the other ants.

The Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about ants, but when it does, it’s always the same story. One of the main characters of the story, who happens to be God, is giving orders “”The ant is a mighty warrior.” (Proverbs 30:25)

The story of the ant is told in Proverbs 30:25-28. The context for this passage is that God’s wisdom and understanding is greater than human wisdom. It will take many lifetimes to accumulate true wisdom, but foolishness can be obtained overnight. Many people think that they are dealing with a small matter when it turns out to be a bigger problem than they imagined. They encounter difficulties, get aggravated and finally they have nothing to rely on but themselves.

If you’ve ever read the story about the ant and the grasshopper, then you’re familiar with this phrase (Matthew 7:24-27). This is one of several well-known biblical phrases. But where does it come from? Why is it here? And what does it mean?

The Ant In The Bible

Many proverbs unearth moral lessons from the world of nature. Proverbs 6:6 is one example: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” Here King Solomon challenges a lazy person to learn from ants, creatures who exemplify hard work, discipline, and foresight.

The Hebrew word translated “sluggard” appears fourteen times in the book of Proverbs but nowhere else in the Old Testament. In this passage, sluggard speaks of someone who is disinclined to work or exert himself. Slacker and lazybones are appropriate substitutes. According to Proverbs 21:25, the sluggard’s “hands refuse to work.” A sluggard even makes up excuses to stay in bed (Proverbs 26:13–14).

In place of “Go to the ant, you sluggard,” the New Living Translation says, “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!” (Proverbs 6:6). The fundamental lesson Solomon illustrates through the industry of ants is that a person can become financially ruined through laziness and irresponsibility. He points out that ants, “Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter” (Proverbs 6:7–8, NLT).

Solomon applauds the ants for their initiative and diligence. He notes that even though they have no supervisor, they work harder than some people who have an overseer to prod them on.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard” is Solomon’s way of imploring the lazy person to consider the virtues demonstrated by the ant colony. Ants possess instinctive motivation and discipline that we can develop through wisdom. They do not labor just for the sake of staying busy; they have a prudent expectation of future needs. Elsewhere, Solomon observes that ants, while small and frail, are nevertheless wise creatures: “Ants—they aren’t strong, but they store up food all summer” (Proverbs 30:25, NLT). They gather and stockpile food in the summer months of plenty, so they will have enough to make it through the scant months of winter. “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest,” expounds Proverbs 20:4 (NLT). Hard work combined with discipline and forethought equals true wisdom, according to Solomon.

With two rhetorical questions, Solomon implores the sluggard to stop sleeping and start working: “But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber” (Proverbs 6:9–11, NLT). “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber” is Solomon’s sarcastic portrait of laziness. “Folding of the hands to rest” is his word picture for idleness. These shortcomings will rob a person of every resource until nothing is left.

By saying, “Go to the ant, you sluggard,” Solomon accentuates his message with an example from nature. A wise person will see that ants are the epitome of hard work, which results in rich blessings, while laziness ends in poverty. Proverbs 10:4 agrees, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (ESV). Stern warnings to the lazy recur throughout the Proverbs: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4, ESV). Like the fool, the sluggard thinks he is wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:16), but his laziness “will be the death of him” (Proverbs 21:25).

The apostle Paul echoes Solomon in the New Testament, entreating Christians “to warn those who are lazy” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). He teaches that sluggards should not be allowed to freeload, explaining, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10–12).

God calls us to be hardworking and diligent and to give ourselves wholly to matters of faith: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:5–10; see also 2 Peter 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:14–15).

The Ant In The Bible

Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV / 462 helpful votes 

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 30:25 ESV / 278 helpful votes 

The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;

Proverbs 30:24-25 ESV / 222 helpful votes 

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;

Proverbs 6:6 ESV / 168 helpful votes 

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

Proverbs 13:4 ESV / 87 helpful votes 

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 6:6-11 ESV / 83 helpful votes 

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. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, …

1 Timothy 5:8 ESV / 72 helpful votes 

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Proverbs 20:4 ESV / 70 helpful votes 

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

Colossians 3:23 ESV / 59 helpful votes 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Ephesians 6:7 ESV / 36 helpful votes 

Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,

Proverbs 30:24 ESV / 30 helpful votes 

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise:

Proverbs 6:8 ESV / 27 helpful votes 

She prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

Proverbs 6:7 ESV / 25 helpful votes 

Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,

Proverbs 10:4 ESV / 22 helpful votes 

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Hebrews 12:1 ESV / 20 helpful votes 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Proverbs 3:9 ESV / 20 helpful votes 

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV / 18 helpful votes 

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Proverbs 30:24-28 ESV / 18 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.

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