The book of Proverbs has a tremendous amount of wisdom. Each verse is packed with practical guidance for success. For instance, Proverbs 6:6-11 provides vivid imagery and powerful lessons. "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. 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 your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man."
This is one section, of several, in the book that discusses the importance of hard work, initiative, and dedication in comparison to laziness and procrastination. The application of these qualities can have great impact in our physical lives. Many times, being proactive and industrious is more valuable to an employer than education or experience. A person who shows these qualities can find themselves quickly advancing above peers who have better credentials.
Another aspect of these verses is having the foresight to delay gratification in favor of preparing for the future. The wisdom of the ant is that even while there is abundance, the coming scarcity of winter compels them to continue working hard. The black and brown ants common in Israel were known to be able to move vast amounts of grain from the harvest floor. So much so, that farmers made it a practice to set fire to every city of ants that they could find near their threshing floor. The sluggard is content to live in the moment and indulge in immediate benefit, only to be set up for failure when the good times end.
While these ethics are essential to set ourselves up for physical success, these characteristics are even more important in our spiritual lives. Scripture gives many exhortations about the dangers of procrastination, sluggishness, and overindulgence in pleasure (Matthew 25:1-13; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Peter 3:1-9). Have we been discerning the times and the evil days we live in? What have we been putting off in our spiritual lives? What responsibilities in our relationship with God have we been running away from? What gifts and talents from God have we been neglecting to use? We can spend months and years making excuses for why we are not tackling our problems.
The truth is times have been good for many years. That environment breeds sluggishness within our human nature. With all that we have experienced in recent months, there are indications of change. Let us take the time to consider the example of the ant and commit ourselves to getting to work. Those things we may have been avoiding, we can no longer afford to put-off.
I pray that this Sabbath is invigorating for us all.