Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise.
By what principles do ants live? Proverbs 6:7-8 tells us ants have "no captain, overseer or ruler," yet they gather their food during the harvest and it lasts them until the next summer. Ants produce and gather, preparing for the future, storing up against the winter or calamity. The ant is not just thinking about today, she's preparing for tomorrow.
Do you remember the old fable about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant works hard all year long to store up for the winter, while the grasshopper plays and gathers nothing. When winter hits and the snows fall, the grasshopper begins to starve and must go to the ants to beg in order to survive. Meanwhile, the ants are warm, safe, and secure--and they have plenty to help the grasshopper out in his need.
Notice again, God said to go to the ant--not the grasshopper.
In order for the ant to gather and prepare for the future, she must have a storehouse. We believe God is teaching us that if we are wise like the ant, we will have a storehouse for the "winter" seasons of life. Then, as springtime begins, the ant is still living off her storehouse, but she also begins again to immediately gather to rebuild and strengthen her storehouse for the next winter. The ant never stops working on her storehouse, and always has more than enough.
For us, "winter" could mean a number of different things. It could mean an unexpected change in our careers, an accident, an economic slump, or any number of "emergencies" or "storms" that come into our lives. Some of these may even be good things, or seasons that we can plan for, like our children going to college, buying a new home or car, starting our own businesses, or even retiring. Ants don't' live in denial, consuming all they have today, for today, and believing that "winter" will never come; grasshoppers, however, do.
Even if an ant can only put one grain at a time into her storehouses, she still does it. Her storehouses are also in a large network of underground tunnels (she is diversified so that if one is destroyed by a storm, the others will still be intact); and her storehouses have different purposes (some are to take care of the young, others to make it through the winter, others set aside provisions in case winter is longer than expected, etc.). Ants work hard to take care of themselves and their colony and don't expect anyone else to take care of them.
Indeed, there is a great deal we can learn from seeing what ants do with their surpluses and how diligently they manage them and work to make sure they have more than enough.
There has been a great deal of debate and criticism in the church in recent years on the subject of Bible prosperity. It is true that some have misappropriated true prosperity for selfish purposes, but that doesn't change the fact that God wants to bless His children. Some people have become so upset about the subject that they say, "I don't believe in prosperity, and I don't like to hear about prosperity." But, prosperity in and of itself is not evil any more than money is--it is the attitude of our hearts and what we do with our prosperity that matter. If we prosper and it only makes us more greedy and selfish, then, yes, prosperity will not be a blessing for us; but, if we use our prosperity to secure the future of our families and to help others, then it will be a tool in our hands for good.
Like the grasshopper, if we do not have a storehouse, we are subconsciously planning for somebody else to take care of us. When we do not have a storehouse, we are constantly focused on our own needs rather than on the needs of others. Look again at Proverbs 6:7: the ant "having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest."
Now, please don't misunderstand what is being said here. No man or woman is an island. God did not create us to be completely independent of other people. At times, we all need counseling. At times, we all need help. We need mentoring. We depend on other people for all kinds of things. Ants work in a community helping each other--we should do the same and realize that sometimes the burdens we face can take several of us to handle. But, if we're not careful, we can make ourselves so dependent on others that we expect them to be responsible for us instead of taking responsibility for ourselves. The ant accepts responsibility for meeting her own needs. The Bible says she is busy gathering and storing up food so that she can take care of herself.