30 Days in the Bible, Day 23: Proverbs 6:6-11
My house is periodically infested with ants. They seem to find every possible scrap of food (at least, ant food), and when they do we’ll find a whole trail of ants heading to the location. They know what they need, and when they find it they not only labor to acquire it but get the rest of the nest involved. They also seem to know the difference between real food and an ant trap, given how unsuccessfully we put out the traps for them.
The ant is not only a picture of hard, faithful work, but of working together. While Solomon doesn’t deal with armies of ants, his portrayal of the ant’s labor can be multiplied by the number available to do the work. Where one ant may not be able to move a particularly good find, a swarm can carry it off. The combined labor of many ants can do what one ant cannot.
The sluggard to whom Solomon compares the ant is not only no good for work himself, but is unwilling to help others. His laziness creates problems for him, but it also makes him a burden on other people. When he becomes poverty-stricken, he will need the assistance of others to survive. In the time of Solomon, he’d probably find it, although he certainly would never become wealthy from it. His prosperous and hard-working compatriots would have to make up for his lack of effort.
I think we can apply this extension of Solomon’s observations to the church. Each one of us is gifted and called by God to a specific ministry in our church. As we labor diligently and faithfully, we enable the church to carry out its ministry to extend the kingdom of Jesus. When we work together with our fellow members, using our gifts in support of each other, the results grow even more than when we labor alone. Serving the Lord together can produce results far beyond what laboring for Him individually can.
Conversely, when we refuse to use our gifts and just sit back and let others do all the work, we hold back the work of the kingdom. We seek to have our needs met, using the time and talents of others, while not contributing ourselves. The gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit lie dormant, and perhaps a critical ministry in the church is weakened because we aren’t using our gifts for their intended purpose.
As members of the church of Jesus Christ, and of a local church as well, we need to examine ourselves and ask if we’re ants or sluggards. Is our labor done faithfully, working with others to build the church and the kingdom? Or are we those who sit and relax, expecting others to do all the work for us? If every member of the church decides that we want to serve our Lord to the best of the abilities He has given us and to support each other with our labor, we will see the ministry of our church grow and the kingdom of our Lord expand throughout our neighborhood, our region, and our world.