Cooperation: Working With Others on a Common GoalWednesday, October 2, 2013
This is 1 of 100 devotionals from my book The ABCs of Wisdom: Building Character With Solomon.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”
Let’s start with a piece of Bible trivia. How many times are ants mentioned the Bible? Ants are mentioned in only one book once in Proverbs 6:6-8 and once in Proverbs 30:25.
Both references are worth considering. In Proverbs 6 Solomon invites us to study the ant for the purpose of learning wisdom. For instance, ants have no commanders (v. 7), yet they work together to store food for the winter (v. 8). Proverbs 30:25 makes a similar point: “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.” How do the ants with little strength manage to store enough food to make it through the long winter months? The answer is, they start early, they look to the future, they pool their strength, and they work together for the common good.
Several years ago I had a chance to see this for myself. As I was taking an afternoon walk, I looked down and saw a vast army of ants carrying an earthworm. It was so startling that I stopped to watch the action.
The earthworm shaped more or less like a treble clef appeared to have dried out in the sun. All around the earthworm were ants pushing away. And they were moving it one micro-inch at a time. I didn’t count but I would bet there were at least 50 ants pushing away at that poor dead earthworm. All around them were other ants, several hundred of them, “junior varsity” ants waiting for their chance to get in the game.
As I watched they slowly pushed that ant toward the grassy edge of the sidewalk. I didn’t stay for the denouement but I suppose the ants feasted on filet of earthworm that night. There was certainly enough food to feed the whole colony for many days to come.
One thought lingered in my mind: A single ant is no match for an earthworm. As Proverbs 30:25 says, “Ants are creatures of little strength.” A single ant could push for a year and never move an earthworm off the sidewalk. But what one ant couldn’t do, many ants did by working together. Which is why Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.”
By the way, it’s no accident that I saw the ants during the summer. You can’t find many earthworms in Chicago in January. The ants know that (with an instinct placed in them by God), so they gather their food now in preparation for the cold weather which must eventually come. Solomon saw the same thing I did and he praised the ants because “they store up their food in the summer.”
There’s a lesson here about individual weakness and united strength. There’s also a lesson about the value of working together to accomplish the greater good. And finally, there’s also a lesson about preparing for the future. An old children’s song says, “The ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah.” Indeed they do, which is why they teach us that we can accomplish so much more when we work together.
As you have placed me in the body of Christ, Lord, so teach me to depend upon my brothers and sisters to accomplish your work. Amen
Name a time recently when, by working with others, you accomplished a significant task.
Would your friends say that you are better at cooperation or competition?