Wisdom from the lowly antAugust is the month when we often find unwelcome visitors in our homes. Usually concentrated in the kitchen, ant patrols come indoors in their seemingly perpetual search for food, especially sweets. Being social insects like bees and wasps, ants live in colonies and send out foragers to bring back food to the colony. Ant colonies have divisions of labor, communication systems, and an uncanny ability to solve problems. Such behavior has not gone unnoticed by human cultures.
By: Pastor Joe Whiting, Grace Baptist Church, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
August is the month when we often find unwelcome visitors in our homes. Usually concentrated in the kitchen, ant patrols come indoors in their seemingly perpetual search for food, especially sweets. Being social insects like bees and wasps, ants live in colonies and send out foragers to bring back food to the colony. Ant colonies have divisions of labor, communication systems, and an uncanny ability to solve problems. Such behavior has not gone unnoticed by human cultures.
Thousands of years ago, King Solomon observed ant behavior and concluded that there is wisdom to be gleaned from their ways. “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 )
Solomon observes that the ant has no captain or leader. While entomologists know that ant colonies have one or more fertile queens beneath the surface, the queen does not leave the colony to lead her children on foraging missions. The workers diligently move out on their own. As they often travel far from home, they secrete a chemical trail to help them find their way back to the colony. How many of us are possessed of such self-motivation to get going each morning? Diligence can be described as faithfully doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. Are you a self-starter like the ant or do you have to be led by the hand or pushed to do the right thing?
Solomon also observes that the ant makes good use of her time and resources. Wild food is only available at certain times of the year, and the ant is out there while the getting is good—during summer and harvest.
Three species of ants native to the land of Israel are known for their foraging of seeds and grains. Scientists have observed that in harvester ant colonies, worker ants collect seeds and carry them into the nest. Other workers remove the seed’s outer husk and carry these inedibles outside. Still other workers transport the nutritious part of the seed to a deep storage chamber. If a damp seed is received, it is taken back to the surface to dry before returning it to the storerooms below. What an amazing use of time and resources! How good are you at making use of the time and resources given you by the Creator? Do you take advantage of the opportunities that are around you, or do you, like the “sluggard,” avoid hard work, expecting others to serve you when times are tough?
Why all this hard work by the ants? When winter comes and food is scarce, the ant colony will have plenty stored until the next growing season. The ants do their collecting by instinct, a powerful force in the animal world. We humans must also learn to look ahead. But we must do so by discipline, not by instinct. We must train ourselves to plan ahead and consider that times of abundance may not last forever. Saving up for hard times is a powerful lesson we all need to learn.
Small though she may be, the lowly ant offers valuable lessons for us. The next time you find ants in your pantry, ‘consider her ways and be wise.’ Be encouraged by this small insect to be self-motivated, diligent, and ever looking ahead.
Joe Whiting is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Two Harbors.