The Bible is not a textbook on science, but a well known passage in Proverbs 6:6-8 is an accurate and insightful commentary on the ant, possibly the world's most important insect. Without ants, some entire ecosystems would be destroyed. Many of the roughly 10,000 ant species already identified have unique behaviors which inspire awe, respect, and even admiration. The nuisance factor many associate with ants in everyday life might be more easily overlooked with a proper knowledge of what these creatures accomplish. We could make similar statements about many other insects.
Young children possess an inherent fascination with insects. This summer, two arenas of excitement developed for our grandchildren just a few steps from our front door. Little black ants were excavating tunnels and piling mounds of soil particles next to the entrances of their underground passageways and caverns. Hundreds of ants came and went, following their scent trails, intently engaged in their mysterious activities. Nearby, another scenario unfolded as we watched our "pet" digger wasp provisioning her underground home with anesthetized grasshoppers and katydids for her larvae-to-be. After the wasp lost its unease with our presence, we watched it efficiently drag its prey into the opening and alternately fill and re-excavate its tunnel, part of its many genetically programmed activities.
Ants are astonishingly successful members of the insect world. In their complex society, all members of the colony remain frantically busy caring for their young, finding various foods, aerating, enriching, and draining the soil, and recycling dead material. Descriptions of the unusual habits of some specialized ant species would fill multiple chapters in an adventure book. One encyclopedic description claims ants enable us to "learn much about diligence, efficiency, sacrifice, loyalty, and teamwork."
What does Proverbs 6 tell us about the ant? Various Bible translations of this passage use the ant to counsel the sluggard, the slothful, and the lazy. Eugene Peterson's The Message translation pleads "You lazy fool, look at the ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions." This is a scripture of enormous insight. Its lessons apply not only to the lazy, but they also serve as a model of successful living for everyone.