Do you know any sluggards? That’s a term rarely used in our world today. The first thing I think of when hearing that word are creeping, slimy slugs.
You could easily identify what a sluggard is though if I gave you some synonyms. How do these words grab you – lazy, sluggish, loafer, slacker, and couch potato. Get the picture now?
The Bible has a lot to say about the lazy. This passage in Proverbs 6 may be the best known of them all. I think mostly because it zeros in on an animal we hardly give attention – the ant.
Do you spend a lot of time considering the ant? I don’t. The only times I really notice them is when one is crawling on me or I see a big mound of Georgia red clay coming up out of the ground. Here’s a tip – if you see one of those don’t step in it. Ants will swarm you for sure.
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!”
Consider the Characteristics of the Ant
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 I see three big conclusions related to the work ethic of the ant:
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.
The ant looks out for itself. The ant provides 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.
The ant pushes itself. There is a season for everything and during the harvest the ant gathers her 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
The sluggard exhibits none of these characteristics. Rather he is content to rest and let others pick up the slack. Don’t you just want to slap him across the face to wake him up?
Well the Bible tries 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 sluggard continues with his loaf-around ways, poverty will come to him. The sad thing is that it will happen unexpectedly. He won’t even see it 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.
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, no commitment to provision, no desire to break a sweat in the mind of the sluggard.
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 rewards.
Questions: 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 would be positive to imitate? What else do you draw from the passage?
About the author: Brian Fourman is a personal finance writer. He helps individuals and families navigate the challenges of managing their money so that they can grow wealth and live with greater peace of mind. In his down time, he loves hanging out with his four kids and hearing his wife talk about all the cool things CPAs do at work. You can check him out providing encouragement and inspiration on his blog at Luke1428.com or by connecting with him on Facebook.