Lessons From The Ants

When my wife and I have walked through a park together for some time and we need a rest, we usually head for the nearest bench. There we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. There we also use the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of God’s spectacular creation. We listen to the fascinating song of the birds and admire the beautiful flowers and the colourful eucalyptus trees the Lord created. Now that we both belong to the fourscore age group, we can’t walk so far anymore. But that doesn’t matter because there is beauty all around us, even on our own doorstep.

One day while resting on one of these park-benches, we noticed several ants busily running around. These industrious little creatures worked very hard, and it soon became obvious to us that they were working harmoniously together. They did not seem to have a leader and even the unseen queen ant was not really their leader, although she seemed to keep them very busy. And yet without a leader the work seemed to get done, and done well.

Harmoniously working together
We noticed one ant which was trying to move a tiny little piece of bark. Ants are known to be able to lift weights that are many times larger and heavier than their own body weight. It is claimed they can lift items weighing up to 50 times their own weight, or more.

This time, however, the piece of bark was obviously too heavy for one ant. But this particular ant was determined to move it to where he wanted it. But no matter how hard he pulled or pushed, he could not move it more than a few centimetres. However, he didn’t want to give up and continued his struggle.

Miraculously though, without any obvious signals or messages passing around, suddenly several other ants noticed this ant’s predicament and quickly rushed to its assistance. No hassles at all. No questions asked. There was obviously no issue about who was in charge and who was issuing the orders. No, they immediately got stuck into it and helped the other ant carry its load. And by harmoniously working together they got the job done. We found it amazing that animals such as the ants often know better than humans how to work harmoniously together.

Same purpose and direction
What was also remarkable was that once they got stuck into it, they all pulled, tugged and pushed into the same direction. Not one of them argued about the direction they should go. Without any hassle they all worked together. They all had the same purpose in mind and were all focused on getting the job done. All of them had the same focus: the building of the nest and the wellbeing of the queen.

We found this very intriguing and fascinating, and continued watching the activities of these industrious little creatures. Then we noticed that one of the ants had just discovered a piece of cheese that someone had dropped when having his lunch on this same park bench. This ant did not just quickly eat it himself but proceeded to attempt to carry it to the nest. But this also proved too heavy for one ant. Again, there was obvious harmony. There was no question about who saw the piece of cheese first and who was therefore entitled to eat it. No, the queen needed to be cared for and therefore they all realised what their priority ought to be. Unselfishly they worked together to feed the queen ant. And so, they all pulled and shoved, again in the same direction, towards the nest. No argument about entitlements; instead, they worked in perfect harmony. Their priority was not their own selfish interests but the wellbeing of the whole ant colony. None of them proudly announced, for instance, “I carried the biggest piece to the nest”. Pride was simply not an issue.

All the ants, strong ones and weak ones, big ones and small ones, had only one purpose in mind and that was the big picture, the needs and wellbeing of the ant colony. The wellbeing of all the other ants, including the queen ant, was their top priority. Their God given social instinct was to work harmoniously together. That’s how they were created by our magnificent Creator.

As with all social insects like bees and wasps, ant colonies have a queen whose sole task is to lay eggs. She has no time to go out and look for food herself. That’s the task of the other ants and they do that willingly and without grumbling. The queen is not chosen but certain larvae are given a special nutritious diet which transforms them from ordinary working ants to queen ants. The queen’s only task is to lay as many eggs as possible during her short lifetime. And the amazing thing is that all this happens according to the design and purpose of our majestic Creator.

May we all recognise and be amazed about the design and beauty that surrounds us, even on our own doorstep, close to home and even in our own garden. Then we may come across something unusual or fascinating which helps us to recognise the ingenuity of our Creator. With the eye of faith, we may see so much beauty all around us. And then to think that we are privileged to serve such a Creator and that we are allowed to communicate with Him. This Creator did not only create things, but He is also intimately involved in maintaining His creation. He also lovingly cares for us His people.
Very importantly, we also need to take note of what our Creator is teaching us with the lesson from the ant colony. Small things like ants are not as boring as we may sometimes think. They also teach us valuable lessons. Those of us who are inclined to be lazy are instructed by the author of the book of Proverbs, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise” (6:6 NKJV). If there are some among us who let all the other people get involved with, for example, ‘busy bees,’ and prefer to have the day off for themselves, then the Bible teaches us to put our shoulder under the task and labour harmoniously together, working with the same purpose as co-workers in God’s Kingdom.
And what ought to be our purpose? Isn’t it, as always and in all circumstances, the glory and honour of God’s holy Name? If that is indeed our aim in life, all our bickering and fighting for our own rights becomes insignificant, futile and unimportant, and will eventually disappear. Then we all work with the same goal and purpose. Then we all, like the ants, pull in the same direction. Only then God’s Name will be glorified.
Ants not only teach us to work hard but they also show us to live towards the future and to prepare for the future. For the ants, the future will be different than ours. We have a wonderful future to look forward to. And, of course, while we wait, we won’t be idle. We don’t just stop working but remain active in God’s Kingdom as His co-workers until He comes. For “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). As Luther said: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree”. In other words, we are called to be busy and work hard like the ants until the Lord returns.

Not entitlements but responsibilities
What else can we learn from the ants? We said that the ants were obviously not so much concerned about their own entitlements. They never argued about their (perceived) rights but were always busy concentrating on their responsibilities. They did not live for themselves but for others, for the care of the community. Their aim is to give, not to receive. Without realising it they live by the biblical principles of our Lord when He said in Acts 20:35, “It is better to give than to receive”. How wonderful to have such lessons from the ants, even right on our doorstep. We have an awesome Creator, who has made wonderful creatures to His glory. Ants can often be a nuisance but at other times they teach us valuable lessons.

Says Rev. R. Bredenhof in his book ‘Wise’, “The little ant in your backyard, always busy with gathering and building, is a model of industry. Without anyone compelling it, and even without receiving monetary reward, an ant does its work with faithfulness and care. That’s a worthy example, an encouragement to do our daily work with diligence and skill”.
To God, the Creator, be the glory.
Great things He has done!

Leo Schoof
FRC Byford

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