Work Hard Lest Poverty Come upon You

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“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (KJV, Prov. 6:6-11).

“Go to the ant”

The ant is an amazing creature that has been known throughout the ages for its ability to establish its colony with incredible foresight and industry. Despite the greatness of man, man must recognize that even the beasts of the earth were created by God, and in this, the mind of God can be seen. While all of life was adversely affected by the fall, there is yet a way in which God continues to shine through His creation.

God uses many of the beasts of the field to teach the Christian lessons. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the Christian to look to the birds to see the way in which God cares for them. Christians are called sheep, false teachers are called wolves, and Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

“thou sluggard”

In contrast to the ant who works hard at the proper time, man is often seen as a sluggard. The Hebrew word for sluggard is atsel, which also carries the meaning of being slothful. The sloth is one of the slowest creatures on earth. They are able to survive largely because of the algae that forms on them due in part to their slow movement. If one needs an illustration of the slothful person, a sloth is good place to look.

The word atsel is a derivative of atsal, which carries the meaning of idleness, slackness, or indolence. The sluggard is a lazy person who is slack in his duties and who often gives way to procrastination.

“consider her ways, and be wise”

Solomon doubles back to the ant. He tells the sluggard to consider the ways of the ant and be wise. To consider is to look upon or gaze upon. To consider the ways of the ant is to take heed to the ant’s activity. To consider the ways of the ant is to discern the way in which the ant goes about life.

Solomon is saying that when the sluggard starts to consider the way of the ant, it will lead to wisdom. Solomon had more than mere thinking in mind. Solomon was concerned with learning. He knew that the ant was a diligent creature that was created by God, and as a result, one can learn from even one of the tiniest of creatures.

“Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler”

Here we see that the ant has no guide, overseer, or ruler. Instead, the ant simply knows how he ought to live. He is wise beyond his size. How can man bring an excuse before his Maker? How can man come before God and declare that God has not given him everything that he needs to be able to care for himself? While the ant does not have a guide, man does.

God is the guide of man. God has shown man how he ought to live and care for himself.

“Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest”

The ant knows the proper seasons to gather its food. The ant is known for its ability to gather grain with an amazing intelligence. When it gathers grain, it will bite the head off of the grain. This practice prevents the grain from germinating within the colony, becoming inedible and sending out roots, thereby wreaking havoc on the ant’s home. After the ant bites off the head of the grain, it will store up the grain in cells until a proper time for the colony to be able to eat.

How can such a small creature with such a small brain have such an amazing amount of wisdom? God created the ant with an incredible ability to care of itself and the rest of the group. Man must be aware of the example set before us. Solomon points us to the ant in an attempt to teach those who have been gripped with slothfulness.

“How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?”

Eventually we see one of the major problems in the life of a sluggard. Solomon asks, “How long wilt thou sleep?” It is important to know that sleep is good and a gift from God. God gives sleep to His beloved. When David lay down and slept, God preserved him. There is no set time given in the Bible that someone must sleep. In the same way, there is no set amount of food someone must eat. However, we can see that when someone makes eating food his idol, he will be deemed a glutton.

In much the same way, when sleep becomes idolatrous and a person becomes slack toward his responsibilities, he will be deemed a sluggard. Earlier we talked about a sloth. We can also look to the slug to see what a sluggard is like. The slug is a slow-moving creature, and it could be said that a slug accomplishes very little on a day-to-day basis.

“when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?”

The sluggard needs to hear the word, “Arise.” When Joshua was to go into battle, God told Joshua, “Arise.” The Christian must arise. When the Bible uses the word arise in this passage, it also carries the meaning of waking up and coming to one’s senses. It could also carry the meaning of getting ready for action (which it often does in the Bible). The sluggard must shake off the dust from his shoulders and move forward. In the event that he has been gripped by depression in his sluggish state, he must push through his depression and conquer it by advancing. He will never break free without arising and facing the matter head on.

“Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep”

Here we see Solomon entering into the mind of the sluggard. In actuality, it is not a little sleep and a little slumber. It is not a little folding of the hands. However, we enter into the mind of the sluggard, and we begin to see the justification. We see the way in which the lies consume the sluggard concerning his activity.

It is easy for the sluggard to justify his slack approach to life when he tells himself, “It is only a little sleep.” It is easy for the sluggard to find an excuse in the words, “It is only a little slumber.” Each time the sluggard puts off for tomorrow what he must do today, there is always a justification for it.

“So shall they poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man”

But the end will always be the same. Solomon warns those who are slack in their duties. He tells the sluggard that poverty is the sure end of the one who approaches the duties of life in a state of indolence.

The sluggard will see that poverty will come upon him in much the same way that a robber would. What does this tell us? When a robber comes, he comes quickly and stealthy. The robber comes without warning, and when he comes, he seizes a person’s goods, leaving him in a state of poverty.

The same is true about the one who gives himself over to idleness. While it may seem nice in the beginning to approach the day in a state of idleness, if one does, he will see that without notice, poverty will come upon him like a robber.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the example that You have given me in the ants. I thank You for the many ways that You have pointed me to Your creation to teach me a lesson. I pray that You would help me to learn the valuable lesson of being diligent in my work. Teach me to fight against laziness in my life and to honor You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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