Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.
-- Proverbs 21:25
Although they're small and have a well-earned reputation as a picnic pest, the ant is actually one of the most remarkable and industrious members of the animal kingdom. Found nearly everywhere on earth, ants have powerful jaws called mandibles that they use to haul food, build nests, move objects and defend themselves. Ants are also social creatures that--like their human counterparts--adhere to class structure. For example, larger ants are called soldiers and are tasked with defending their colonies against predators (sometimes other ants). Smaller ants typically serve as workers, and they have assigned tasks such as constructing and maintaining their nest, raising the population's young, collecting and storing food, and even feeding other ants in the colony that can't nourish themselves. Needless to say, it's rare to see an ant slacking off on the job.
What does this have to do with God's message to us through the Bible? It turns out that along with heaven, hell, salvation and money, laziness is one of the most common themes addressed through Scripture. In fact, there are more than 20 Bible passages that denounce this unfortunate human inclination. One of them in the Old Testament book of Proverbs happens to use the ant as a positive example for Christ-followers:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
We all fall short of God's standards every day. And when we break just one of his laws, we in essence violate the others. What's more, we can never work hard or long enough to repay our Creator for our failures. But the good news is that Jesus has already paid that enormous debt for us through his own death on the cross. It's therefore up to us to accept this free, undeserved gift, and then begin to live out our faith through our words and deeds. As John the Baptist once admonished the religious leaders who sought him for baptism, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
Are you following the ant's example by using your God-given gifts and talents as a worker--or even as a soldier--to produce spiritual fruit by benefiting your community, your neighbors...and your church? Proverbs 20:4 tells us that if we're too lazy to plow, we can't expect a harvest. But if you feel a bit helpless, don't be discouraged. Our Savior hasn't left us alone in our tasks.
"I am the vine; you are the branches," he tells us through the Gospel of John. "If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."