Proverbs 6:6


I. THE PICTURE OF INSECT INDUSTRY. The ant was viewed as the very picture of laboriousness in ancient as in modern times. It is interesting that the German word for "industrious" (emsig) seems derivable from amessi, "emmet, ant." The like may probably be traceable in some English dialects,

1. The industry of the ant has all the appearance of a virtue. For it seems unforced; there is no judge, superintendent, or onlooker, or taskmaster, to superintend its work. Contrast with the representations on various monuments of the taskmasters with whips superintending gangs of labourers.

2. It is provident industry. It lays up against the rainy day. The closer study of ant life by modern observers opens a world of marvel, and suggests other lines of thought. It is sufficient for didactic purposes to note the general principle; the external appearances of nature reveal moral analogies.

II. THE CONTRAST OF HUMAN SLOTH. (Vers. 9-11.)

1. The lazy man seems as if he would sleep forever (ver. 9).

2. He knows not when he has reposed enough (ver. 10). An ironical imitation of his langour, his lazy attitude. The arms ever crossed, instead of being opened and ready for toil. "When I begin to turn about," said the Duke of Wellington, "I turn out."

3. The result of sloth (ver. 11). Poverty surprises him like a robber, and want like an armed man. A striking picture of the seeming suddenness with which men may sink into destitution. But it is only seeming; it has been long really preparing.

III. MORAL ANALOGY AND APPLICATION. Sloth in all its forms is ruinous to body and soul. Mental inertness and vacuity is a common form, The mind must be aroused, interested, filled. Here is one of the great sources of drunkenness, because of depression. If you have no occupation, invent one. Goad your temper by hopes and fears, if it will not wake up without them. In religion "be not slothful." Work at the practical or theoretical side of it, whichever suits your capacity best. Work out your own salvation. Take it all for granted, and you will presently find that all has slipped away, and naught remains but an impoverished intellect, a stagnant will. - J.









Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Homilist.
There is a twofold revelation of God — in the Bible and in nature. In relation to this revelation, men divide into three classes —

1. Those who study neither. Their intellects are submerged in animalism and worldliness.

2. Those who study one and disparage the other. Some devout Christians regard nature as not sufficiently sacred and religious for their investigation. Some scientific men try to turn the results of their researches against the Bible.

3. Those who reverentially study the teachings of both. They treat them as volumes from the same Author.The allusion in the text shows that the Bible encourages the study of nature.

1. It sends us to nature in order to attest its first principles.

2. It refers us to nature for illustrations of its great truths.

3. It refers us to nature in order to reprove the sins it denounces. To reprove us for our spiritual indolence it directs us to the ants. The sluggard we now deal with is the spiritual sluggard, not the secularly indolent man, but the man who is neglecting the culture of his own spiritual nature and the salvation of his own soul. The ants teach these important lessons.

I. THAT THE FEEBLENESS OF YOUR POWER IS NO JUST REASON FOR YOUR INDOLENCE. The ants are feeble, but see how they work. Naturalists have shown their ingenuity as architects, their industry as miners and builders. Remember three things —

1. All power, however feeble, is given for work.

2. You are not required to do more than you have power to accomplish.

3. All power increases by use.

II. THAT THE ACTIVITY OF OTHERS IS NO JUST EXCUSE FOR YOUR INDOLENCE. In the ant-world you will see millions of inhabitants, but not one idler; all are in action. One does not depend upon another, or expect another to do his work. The Christian world is a scene of action, but not one of the million actors can do your work.

III. THAT THE WANT OF A HELPER IS NO JUST EXCUSE FOR YOUR INDOLENCE. Each ant is thrown upon his own resources and powers. Self-reliantly each labours on, not waiting for the instruction or guidance of another. Trust your own instincts; act out your own powers; use the light you have; look to God for help.

IV. THAT THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS NO JUST REASON FOR YOUR INDOLENCE. God provides for His creatures through the use of their own powers. He does not do for any creature what He has given that creature power to do for himself.

1. Like these little ants, you have a future.

2. Like these little creatures, you have to prepare for the future.

3. Like these little creatures, you have a specific time in which to make preparation.Then do not talk of Providence as an excuse for your indolence. He has provided for you richly, but He only grants the provision on condition of the right employment of your powers. There is an inheritance for the good, but only on condition of their working. There is a heaven of knowledge, but only for the student. There is a harvest of blessedness, but only to the diligent husbandman. And your harvest-time will soon be over.

(Homilist.)

The wisdom of providence is eminently conspicuous in the limits it has set to the faculties of the human mind. As experience of the past is of far more importance in the conduct of life than the most accurate and intimate acquaintance with the future, the power of memory is more extensive and efficient than the faculty of foresight. It was wise and merciful to afford us but an indistinct perception of the future. But here man acts in opposition to the will of his Maker. He has withheld from us distinct knowledge of the future, yet how often do we act as if we were familiarly acquainted with it. Our confident expectation of the continuance of life encourages that indolence about their immortal interests in which so many of the children of men waste the season allotted for their preparation for eternity. The admitted history of the ant does more than corroborate and confirm the statement of Solomon in this text. But it is not as a curious fact in natural history, or even as furnishing a theme of praise to the wise and munificent Author of Nature, that the wise man introduces the history and habits of the ant. It is as a rebuke to the sloth and indolence of rational and accountable beings.

I. WE ARE ADMONISHED AND REPROVED BY THE SAGACITY AND CARE WITH WHICH THE ANTS MAKE PREPARATION FOR THE WINTER. Nature has given them an instinctive anticipation of the necessities and severity of winter. Grain after grain is borne along, and having been carefully prepared against revegetation, is added to their little store. The winter of our year is fast approaching; are we making all needful preparations?

II. WE ARE ADMONISHED BY THE SAGACITY WITH WHICH THE ANT SELECTS AND SEIZES THE PROPER SEASON OF PREPARATION FOR WINTER. The food proper for storage can only be obtained at particular seasons; and if these are neglected, want and wretchedness reign throughout the cells. The present life is the season in which you are called to make provision for the days that are to come.

III. THE INCESSANT AND UNINTERMITTED ACTIVITY AND DILIGENCE WITH WHICH THE ANT PLIES HER SUMMER TASK PRESENT ANOTHER IMPORTANT LESSON OF WISDOM TO THE RATIONAL AND ACCOUNTABLE FAMILY OF GOD. It is not an occasional exercise in which this curious creature is engaged. Day after day do these industrious tribes issue forth to the work of gathering. And here, again, they teach us wisdom. The great work to which religion calls us is not one that can be taken up and laid aside at pleasure.

IV. THE HARMONY, UNION, AND CONCORD WHICH PREVAIL AMONG THE ANTS SUGGEST A LESSON FOR US. The instinct which prompts them to assist each other in their busy labours has been celebrated as one of the most interesting manifestations of Creating Wisdom. How beautifully does it accord with some of the most frequently repeated precepts of the gospel! And also with such counsel of the apostle as this, "Bear ye one another's burdens."

(John Johnston.)

I. SLUGGISHNESS OR IDLENESS IS A GREAT SIN.

1. It is a sin against nature, for all living things put out that strength God hath given them.

2. It is against God's commandment. It is stealing for a man to live on other men's labours, and do nothing himself.

3. Idleness produces many other sins: such as disobedience to parents, drunkenness, adultery (as in David's ease), stealing, lying, and cheating.

4. Idleness brings many miseries upon man: such as diseases, poverty, unmercifulness in others, loss of heaven and pains of hell. If the idler object that he hurts none but himself, we reply, "So much the worse. Remember, thou must give account of thy time; of thy talents; of thy thoughts; of thy idle words; of thy deeds; of neglecting thy family; of doing no good in the commonwealth."

II. LITTLE CREATURES MAY TEACH GREAT MEN MUCH WIT. From the ant they may learn —

1. Providence.

2. Labour.

3. Order.

(Francis Taylor, B. D.)

The busy ant is to be our minister. The great lesson it teaches is foresight, the duty of rightly improving the passing hour, the wisdom of making the best of our opportunities. The faculty of foresight, the power of doing something for the future, is a faculty most divine. Rightly educated and developed, it gives man peculiar elevation, and invests him with commanding influence. He who sees farthest will rule best. Foresight is not to be confounded with distrust. The wise exercise of foresight makes life pleasant —

1. By economising time. The man who has least to do takes most time to do it in. Our greatest men have been the most severe economists of time.

2. By systematising duties. Some persons have no power of systematising. Such men fret themselves to death, and do not perish alone. The men in the Church who do the least are generally the men of leisure.

3. By diminishing difficulties. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Foresight numbers and weighs contingencies. The person who is destitute of foresight multiplies the difficulties of other people. The ant makes the best of her opportunities. Every life has a summer, and every life a winter. In recommending preparation for life's winter I am not advocating penuriousness. Covetousness is an affront to God. "The liberal soul shall be made fat."

(J. Parker, D.D.)

Our text points to the sluggard — the lazy man. "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? "There are many lazy people in the world. They are generally not worth much, not much wanted, nor of much use, except as beacons. They are not often prosperous. "An idle man," says Mr. Spurgeon, "makes himself a target for the devil; and the devil is an uncommonly good shot." An idle man's heart is the devil's nest; his hands the devil's tools; while the devil lays in wait for active, busy men, the idle man is actually waiting for the devil to set him a job. A race of idle men would create a famine. There are men who are absolutely too indolent to seek for salvation, 'tis too much trouble! And there are lazy Christians too; idlers in the Master's vineyard. "A little sleep," etc.

1. Here is a self-indulgent man. This little speech means, "I am comfortable; don't disturb me; let me alone to enjoy myself." This is the wish of many a sinful man. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion," living purely selfish lives; for self-indulgence may, and generally does, mean selfishness. Self-indulgence is easy. 'Tis easier to give the reins to our appetites than to curb them; to slide than to climb; to please ourselves than to deny ourselves. If we would be men of mark for holiness, usefulness, of eminence either in things temporal or spiritual, we must know something of self-denial. Men who "take it easy" rarely make much headway. Look round amongst Christian workers, business men, great philanthropists, successful inventors, men illustrious or famous in any walk of life; read the biographies of men who have been renowned for any good thing — you will find that they were men of self-denial, not self-indulgent. Moses was a self-denying man; "he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt"; and Moses prospered; he became very great; he was appointed leader and commander of the people of Israel. The apostles were self-denying men; hear them: "We have left all, and have followed Thee." "A little sleep," etc.

2. Here is a procrastinating man. He does not mean to sleep always, not even for long — only for a little while. He only wants a "little sleep," and then he will be stirring. Think of hours, days, lives, wasted in little delays; of souls lost by little delays! No man deliberately intends to be always a slave to sin, the devil, his own lusts. Not always — no; but just now it is pleasant, convenient. Courage to take now the decisive step — now! To-morrow may never come.

(G. B. Foster.)

The truth of Solomon's reference to the ant, which has been questioned before now, is fully vindicated. Dr. Macmillan has found the food stored up in the nests of the ants, and he adds this interesting information: "Examining the seeds collected in the nests of the ants on the top of the hill at Nice more particularly with my magnifying glass, I found to my astonishment that each seed had its end carefully bitten off. And the reason of this was perfectly plain. You know each seed contains two parts—the young plant or germ lying in its cradle, as it were, and the supply of food for its nourishment, when it begins to grow, wrapped round it. Now the ants had bitten off the young plant germ, and they left only the part which was full of nourishment. And they did this to prevent the seeds from growing and exhausting all the nourishment contained in them. If they did not do this the seed stored under the ground, when the rains came, would shoot, and so they would lose all their trouble and be left to starve. I could not find in the heap a single seed that had not been treated in this way. Of course, none of the seeds that had their ends bitten off would grow; and you might as well sow grains of sand as the seed found in ants' nests."

I. THE IMPORTANT AND INTERESTING TRUTH WHICH THESE WORDS SUGGEST. That provision ought to be made for the future.

1. We should make provision for the soul.

2. What is the kind of provision needed for the soul?

3. The period against which we are to make this provision. The winter of death and eternity.

II. THE SEASON IN WHICH THIS PROVISION IS TO BE MADE. The ants secure their winter requirements during the summer. Our life may be compared to summer for two reasons —

1. Because during the summer we have every needful opportunity of getting ready for the winter.

2. Because summer is the only time in which this provision for the winter can be made.

III. THE REPROOF WHICH IS HERE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO NEGLECT TO MAKE THE PROVISION.

1. The force of this rebuke arises from the insignificance of the being by whose conduct we are reproved.

2. The disadvantageous circumstances in which they are said to be placed.

3. From that which they make their provision.

4. From the season against which they provide.

5. From the epithet applied to those who are negligent.

IV. THE ADVICE WHICH THE WISE MAN GIVES.

1. A lesson of wisdom.

2. A lesson of industry.

3. A lesson of perseverance. If not making this preparation, what will by and by be our moral destitution!

(J. Coe.)

The indolent and improvident are here addressed. They are sent to the inferior creation for a lesson; and not to the greatest and noblest of the animals, but to one of the least and most insignificant of the insects. The providence of the ant has, by some naturalists, been questioned. It has been alleged that during winter they are, like some other insects, in a state of torpidity, and therefore need not the precaution ascribed to them in ver. 8. On this we observe —

1. If the fact of their laying up provisions be ascertained, all analogy more than warrants the conclusion that it is for some end.

2. It is said the stock laid up is not for winter, but for the sustenance of the young, when they need the almost undivided attention of the whole. But as a proof of providence, this comes to the same thing.

3. The assertion that the laying up of provisions by the ant is a mistake may not apply to the ants of every country. In tropical climates they do lay up provisions. The main lesson the sluggard has to learn from the ant is industry.Three grounds of this duty are indicated in Scripture —

1. That persons may not be a burden on society or on the Church.

2. That they may be out of the way of temptation; for there are many temptations in idle habits.

3. That they may have wherewith to assist others, whose needs, from unavoidable causes, may be greater than their own. One perilous characteristic of sloth is, that it is ever growing.

(R. Wardlaw.)

Man was created with more understanding than the beasts of the earth. But our minds are so debased by our apostasy from God that the meanest creatures may become our teachers.

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSON WHOM THE WISE MAN HERE ADDRESSES. The sluggard! Sloth casteth into a deep sleep, and in the verses following the text the sluggard is represented as in this state. He spends his time in fruitless wishes. He is discouraged by the least opposition. He creates imaginary dangers for himself. We know well who they are whose hands refuse to labour, who are clothed with rags, and make poverty not only their complaint, but their argument. But sloth is not confined to the common affairs of life, nor the character of a sluggard to men in any particular station. There is sloth in religion; neglecting the one thing needful, the care of our immortal souls.

II. THE COUNSEL OR ADVICE WHICH THE WISE MAN HATH GIVEN us. The ant instructeth us not by speech, but by actions. Therefore we are called to "consider her ways"; how she is employed, and for what ends she is active. The wisdom we learn from the ant is the wisdom of acting suitably to our superior nature and our glorious hopes. We learn from the ant three things —

1. A foresight and sagacity in making provision for the time to come. How dreary must the winter of life be, when the previous seasons have been passed in sloth, in idleness, or in folly!

2. Activity and diligence. The ant never intermits her labours as long as the season lasts. Happy were it for man that he as faithfully employed his precious time to render himself useful in this world, or to prepare for eternity.

3. Sagacity in making use of the proper season for activity. Opportunity is the flower of time; or it is the most precious part of it, which, if once lost, may never return. Foresight, diligence, and sagacity the ant employs by an instinct of nature. She has no guide, but we have many guides. She "hath no overseer," but man acts under the immediate inspection of Him "whose eyes are as a flame of fire." And the voice of conscience in us is the voice of God. The ant "hath no ruler," or judge to call her to account for her conduct; but every one of us must give account of himself to God.

III. IMPROVEMENT OF THE SUBJECT.

1. The sluggard sins against the very nature which God hath given him.

2. The sluggard sins against the manifest design of providence.

3. The sluggard sins against the great design of the gospel. Let us then be no longer "slothful in business," but "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."

(R. Walker.)

An ant could tell us strange things. She could tell about the houses they live in, some of which are forty stories high, twenty stories being dug out, one beneath another, under the earth, and twenty stories being built up over them, above ground; she could tell about the different kinds of trades they follow, how some are miners, and dig down into the ground; some are masons, and build very curious houses, with long walls, supported by pillars, and covered over with arched ceilings. She could tell how some are carpenters, who build houses out of wood, having many chambers which communicate with each other by entries and galleries; how some are nurses, and spend their whole time taking care of the young ones; some are labourers, and are made, like slaves, to work for their masters; while some are soldiers, whose only business it is to mount guard, and stand ready to defend their friends and fellow-citizens. The ants teach:

I. A LESSON OF INDUSTRY. The ant is a better example of industry than even the bee.

II. A LESSON OF PERSEVERENCE. They never get discouraged by any difficulties they may meet with. Perseverance conquers all things.

III. A LESSON OF UNION. The benefits of being united, and working together. The union of the ants both preserves them safely and enables them to do great good.

IV. A LESSON OF KINDNESS. Ants are a very happy set of creatures. There seems to be nothing like selfishness among them.

V. A LESSON OF PRUDENCE, or looking ahead. The power to think about the future, and to prepare for it.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

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