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Consider the Ant in Your Definition of Work Ethic (Proverbs 6:6)

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.” That verse from Proverbs 6:6 contains an odd word we rarely use today – sluggard. The first thing I think of when hearing that word are creeping, slimy slugs. So sticky and definitely no fun to hold.

consider the antYou may not identify with that word. But you could easily understand what a sluggard is if I gave you some synonyms. How do these words grab you – lazy, sluggish, loafer, slacker and couch potato. Get the picture now?

God has a lot to say about the lazy in the pages of the Bible. This particular passage in Proverbs may be the best known of them all. I think mostly because it tells us to “consider the ant” – an animal we hardly ever pay attention to.

I don’t really consider the ant that much. The only times I really notice them is when one is crawling on me or I see a big mound coming up out of the ground. Here’s a tip – if you see one of those don’t step in it. You will definitely consider the ant at that point as they swarm all the way up your leg.

Yet here in Proverbs 6:6 they are shown to be a model example of work ethic. In fact, the sluggard is encouraged to “Go to the ant” and “Consider her ways…” In other word sluggards, the Bible is shouting at you “Pay attention to what the ant does…you could learn a thing or two about working hard!”

Related Content: The Real Secret to Developing a Work Ethic in Kids

Consider the Ant and Her Characteristics

In the next few verses, the Bible goes on to describe some really cool things related to the work ethic of the ant. Here is the description in its entirety:

Go to the ant, you sluggard!

Consider her ways and be wise.

Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler,

Provides her supplies in the summer,

And gathers her food in the harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8)

So much can be drawn out of these verses. But as we consider the example of the ant, I see three big conclusions to be aware of as related to work ethic:

  1. The ant motivates itself. We see here the ant has no captain. There is no overseer or ruler telling the ant what to do. The ant knows what to do and motivates itself to accomplish the task.
  1. The ant looks out for itself. Here the ant is seen providing for her own needs. She gathers her supplies (literally bread or meat) when needed. She is not looking to someone else to provide for her. It’s up to her and she knows it.
  1. The ant pushes itself. There is a season for everything and during the harvest the ant gathers food. When it’s time – when the really hard work needs to be done – she doesn’t shy away from it. She pushes herself to gather what’s needed when the time is right.

The reward for her industrious work is a bountiful supply of food that will sustain her going forward.

The Challenge and Warning to the Sluggard

A lazy person (aka “the sluggard”) exhibits none of these characteristics. Rather he is content to rest and let others pick up the slack. He sleeps time away and is content in his laziness. He needs a serious wake up call.

Well, the Bible tries to give him one and alert the lazy man of his ways with this challenge and warning:

“How long will you slumber, O sluggard?

When will you rise from your sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber,

A little folding of the hands to sleep –

So shall poverty come on you like a prowler,

And your need like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:9-11)

The implication here is clear: If the lazy person continues with these loaf-around ways, poverty will come to him. The sad thing is that it will happen unexpectedly. Like a robber about to descend on an unexpected victim, he won’t even see the problem coming until it’s too late.

How’s Your Work Ethic?

The Bible is not saying there is something wrong with sleep. Or even relaxing. Or even vegging on the couch from time to time. We all need that time to rest our bodies and unwind our mind and emotions.

Related Content: All Work and No Play: Combating the Dangers of Workaholism

The difference is that someone who is a sluggard has committed to a lifestyle choice. Laziness is the default direction they move in. There is no drive and no commitment to personal provision. In the mind of the lazy, there is no desire to even break a sweat.

You can forget about any strong work ethic with the sluggard. There is none.

Where are you at today? If you are living the sluggard lifestyle there is danger around the corner. Poverty and hardship are waiting at your door – if they are not already there.

You’d be wise to consider the ant and emulate her ways. She doesn’t live an easy life but it’s one that leads to great personal rewards.

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: Do you ever have trouble motivating yourself? Has there ever been a time in your life where you were completely lazy and couldn’t break out of it? If so, how did you turn it around? Can you think of any other characteristics of the ant that you should consider and would be positive to imitate? What else do you draw from the passage?

Original image by Jason Bolonski at Flickr Creative Commons

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  1. Help. Just read Proverbs 6 section…Lessons from Ants. And it saddens me to tears. This is where I’m at. Just recently stopped working and now with lots of time but getting very little done. Never been good without structure. Being undisciplined, procrastination, and indecisiveness are biggest weaknesses. But don’t know how to break free. Never married, always alone. Yet the ant works in a team. I was envious the other day when friend was planting new garden plants because she had her husband to share in the work. I fear getting to the end of my life with regrets and nothing really to show for the time and life God has given me. Burdened and Trapped jm

    • Hey NJ…More than anything, we were created to be in relationships and community. Marriage and family is one type of community. But so are church, work, friend groups, social organizations, etc. You need to get some people around you who you can share your burdens with and who can speak into your life. Don’t look for community to come find you. You have to go find it.

  2. I know this post is older, but I just found your blog today and am reading various topics. I feel comfortable that much of your advice is knowledge I already have. But this this topic hits home. I never used to be a “sluggard” up until just a few years ago when I burned out in my current job and then ended up with a horrible manager who prided herself in being a “the Toughest B**** In The Department”.
    I managed to get move into a new dept with a great manager who was the complete opposite: completely hands off. I developed some bad habits of laziness yet I still managed to get a promotion. I am at the career level that I wanted to be, yet I don’t like the new job. This has increased my laziness since I just don’t like going to work. I like the pay and it help dig out of the debt. I am so ashamed. I know it will all catch up with me, I don’t want to disappoint my new manager who took a chance on me and gave me a promotion, but this job is so boring. I don’t know how to get out of this mindset. Thanks for letting me vent. If anyone is following this, I wouldn’t mind some helpful advice, or even the excoriation that I deserve.

  3. Chanel Kissa says

    Amazing. I actually read proverbs 6:6 that I put on my vision board awhile ago. Tonight I decided to google the work ethics of ants, and came across your blog. What a blessing! Thank you for the insight, it was much need and enjoyable. Stay blessed.

  4. sule blessing says

    wow.it relates to my work.thank u for the ANT talk.

  5. When I was a little girl, my mom would read this story to me over and over again. That is probably why I work harder in the summer than the in the winter LOL!

  6. As I read this post, I did think of my teen-aged daughter : ) I was very lazy when it came to household chores when I was her age too, so I’m hopeful it will pass. The role of parents is key in preventing the enabling of sluggardlines (new word).
    Another great thing ants do is amazing team work. So although they are self-motivated, they also know how to join forces powerfully. Sort of like Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits: effective independence AND effective interdependence combined.

    • “…role of parents is key in preventing the enabling of sluggardlines (new word).” I completely agree with that. Parents have to set the example with this and challenge kids to not just lay around.

  7. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    Another term I learned “sluggard”. Ants are one of the amazing creature on Earth. It seems like they never get tired of saving food and working. I just wish I had that energy and motivation like that of ants.

  8. We could definitely get some pointers from the ants. Although they’re pesky creatures, but they do have their positive qualities. Sometimes people are just missing something that gets them really motivated. Sadly, there are people who are just content with letting someone else support them. That’s not how it works though. You reap what you sow.

    • “…content with letting someone else support them…” Yeah, I know. If only they knew the rewards that come from supporting themselves. And those rewards aren’t just monetary. There are great internal rewards as well that change you as a person.

  9. I have definitely known a few sluggards in my life. 🙂 I definitely relate to ant and take a lot of pride in having a great work ethic. I have big dreams and know that they just don’t happen, you have to the work. Have a great weekend, Brian!

    • “…big dreams and know that they just don’t happen…” So true Shannon! It takes effort and hard work…great things rarely if ever fall in our lap.

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