What the ant teaches us is that diligence and productivity are fit for a wise and flourishing life. Man was made to work and to work hard. Adam, even before his fall, was created and called by God to work, to tend to and “keep the Garden” (Genesis 2:15).
Solomon, in wanting his son to pursue and know wisdom, instructs him to “consider the ant” (Proverbs 6:6). The command is to observe and learn the ways of this small but impressive creature. What impressive wisdom does the ant teach us? Diligent. Hard. work. In short, the ant is productive. And this is one essential feature to wise living. “Go to the ant, O Sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). In considering and watching the work-ethic of the ant, the man who is a sluggard can learn and grow in wisdom; he has a model on which to follow. This is natural theology at its best!
As John Kitchen writes in his excellent commentary on Proverbs, “such reflection will yield a new work ethic which prioritizes self-motivation, industry, diligence and planning. Embracing such a work will cause one to ‘be wise.’ Wisdom is not some esoteric, other-worldly rhetoric. Wisdom is practical success in the real world. Hard work lies in its path.”
What wisdom can we learn from the ant on being diligent and productive? Well first, the ant is self-motivated. She does not need a manager or boss or task-master to get her to work, she is able to do the work of her own accord. As verse 7 and 8 tells us, “without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer.” Here is a creature who gets to the work without being told to; the ant is disciplined and self-controlled.
Ryan McGraw, in his helpful little booklet How Should I Manage Time writes, “We can redeem the time only if we enjoy the work that God has given us to do each day. Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, ‘Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own work; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?’ Enjoying our work is a gift from God… We must learn to enjoy our work even when our work is not enjoyable” There is wisdom in learning to enjoy our work. Perhaps that begins with asking God to help you do that and fervently praying to make you more like the ant in being self-motivated. Ask God to help you work hard. Is this not something of what Moses requested when he prayed to “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17)?