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The Warnings of Wisdom and The Ways of an Ant

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Proverbs 6:1–19

Wisdom is displayed in what we do and in what we avoid. Proverbs 6 presents some important warnings related to both activities. We do well to take them seriously, not to impress others, but to please God.


The Warnings of Wisdom and The Ways of an Ant

Proverbs 6:1-19


In our last session, we covered the theme of moral purity—the only subject Solomon spent nearly three chapters of Proverbs talking about. Now, we are going to go back to chapter 6, where Solomon also provides what we will call wisdom warnings.

The first warning concerns the matter of finances. A godly person is not going to be stingy toward others but must be careful at the same time.

Solomon cautions here in verse 1 about putting up “security for your neighbor” and giving “your pledge for a stranger.” To “put up security” is to become equally responsible for someone else’s debts, such as when you cosign on a loan.

Solomon warns against doing that for a stranger—for someone you really don’t know that well. In fact, you need to be careful about doing that for a family member. You better consider whether or not you can handle that loan, because you just might have to.

Now let’s skip down in chapter 6 for a moment to verse 16, where Solomon tells us, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” An abomination is something that is “morally repulsive” to the Lord.[1]

Now this Hebrew expression, “six things … seven,” is a way of indicating that the list is not exhaustive. The Bible makes it clear that all sin is equally repulsive to God—all sin is sinful.

So, this is actually encouraging here. Solomon could have written, “There are 6,000 things that the Lord hates, 7,000 that are an abomination to Him.” That is true, but the Lord boils it down to seven, as if to get us started in the right direction.

First on the list, here in verse 17, is “haughty eyes,” which indicates arrogance toward other people. Solomon adds “a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.” You don’t need any commentary to understand lying and murder are an abomination to the Lord.

Verse 18 adds to the list a “heart that devises wicked plans.” This describes those who are always conniving, scheming, and scamming other people. Also in the list are “feet that make haste to run to evil.” This pictures people who love to sin; they are looking for ways to sin; they live to sin.

Finally, in verse 19, the Lord hates a “false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” God hates deceit, and He cannot stand division among the people of God.

Now, let’s move back a few verses to a subject we are going to run into several times in the book of Proverbs—the sluggard. A sluggard is a person who works hard at getting out of work.

Solomon refers to the sluggard numerous times in this book. One thing he points out is the sluggard’s lack of a work ethic—he is undependable.

Over in Proverbs 10:26, we read, Like … smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” A sluggard will make you cry because you just cannot depend on him!

Second, his excuses are unbelievable. In chapter 22 we read, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’” (verse 13).

He is claiming he can’t go to work because there is a lion out there somewhere that might get him. This goes way beyond calling in sick, but it’s the same idea.

I heard about one employee who called his boss to ask off to attend his grandmother’s funeral. Six months later he called in again. It seems his grandmother had died all over again. He had forgotten he had used that excuse before and even used the same grandmother’s name. One author said, “The sluggard summons all of his creative energy into making excuses rather than making a living.”[2]

Here’s a third observation: the heart of a sluggard is unteachable. Proverbs 26:16 says, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.”

If you challenge lazy people, they will give you a list of reasons why you are wrong. Just ask them, and they will tell you they are your best employees. They are the only ones who work so hard. Why, you couldn’t do without them. The truth is, they can talk, but they don’t work.

Solomon writes in chapter 6 directly to the sluggard in verse 6, saying, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” This is the solution: “Let’s take a field trip to an anthill, and just watch for a while. Study the ants, and grow wise.”

Ants are fascinating creatures. They can lift up to fifty times their weight, which would be like you or me going outside and picking up an automobile.

A single ant colony can house millions of ants, all busy at work, guarding the colony, serving the queen ant, or hunting and gathering food. And here is the really amazing thing: All of this is implanted in their instincts by their Creator. Solomon writes that they do all this “without having any chief, officer, or ruler” (verse 7).

They do it all without a “chief.” The Hebrew word can be translated as “judge.” They do not need a judge to settle a dispute or some labor issue. The ants just move around and over each other, and stay at the task. Imagine an ant hill with a million ants and not one traffic signal!

Ants do everything without a chief and, Solomon adds, without an “officer.” This Hebrew word refers to someone who literally writes something down—someone who assigns orders to others. You can imagine an ant out there with a clipboard handing out assignments. Well, there isn’t one.

Solomon also adds that the ants work together without a “ruler.” He is saying the ants do not need someone to correct their job performance or praise them for a job well done.[3]

Ants are internally motivated to obey the instincts given to them by their creator God. You could put it this way: They don’t need anybody to make them work, manage their work, or motivate them to work.

No wonder Solomon writes:

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (verses 6-8)

Ants just seem to love doing what their Creator gifted and designed them to do. We ought to be more like them.

I have read about those who serve in the military as riggers. Their job is to fold and pack parachutes other soldiers will use as they jump from airplanes.

Part of their creed says, “There can be no compromise with perfection. … I will be sure—always.” And that is because they know they have a life-or-death job to perform.

Can you imagine being told, “Listen, you are going to jump out of an airplane, and your parachute was packed by that sluggard over there. He came to work late and didn’t seem to care about the work he was doing, but we think he folded the parachute right. So here, use the parachute he prepared.”

I doubt you would be willing to jump out of that plane!

Beloved, if God cares about the work an ant performs, He certainly cares about your work. So, become even more diligent as that dedicated teacher who prepares your lessons well, that plumber who gets all the pipes connected properly, that mechanic who charges only for what is needed, that doctor who takes time to listen, that cook who serves only their best, that salesman who makes only an honest deal, that student who tackles each assignment.

Listen, we are ultimately working for the reputation of our Savior and the impact of His gospel in our world. Are we working with diligence and excellence?

[1] Peter A. Steveson, Proverbs (BJU Press, 2001), 84.

[2] Charles Swindoll, Selected Studies from Proverbs (IFL, 1994), 52.

[3] See Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1–15 (Eerdmans, 2004), 337 for the word meanings here.

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Ted Haigler says:
I love following your journey through the Bible, I am quick to recommend your podcast to others as I smile at your wisdom of Gods word. Thank you and may the grace of Christ be with you.

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