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Opinions of Saturday, 6 May 2017

Columnist: Dr. Daniel Gyebi

The ant as a role model

Ants are self-motivated and hardworking. Ants are self-motivated and hardworking.

Many of us, particularly young people, go through life in search of role models. Role models may be described as those to whom others look for inspiration, wisdom, knowledge, education, support, leadership etc. – all with the goal of making a desired impact on their lives. Many find them in parents, older siblings and other relatives, priests, teachers, business and community leaders, and many more. This article invites you to broaden your search and tap into the wisdom of King Solomon for an unlikely role model – the ant.

A lot has been said and written about King Solomon, King of Israel and son of King David. To many, he was the wisest person of all time. His fountain of wisdom knew no bounds. He touched on many subjects, big and small, with insights that only a wise man of his stature could do. One subject he addressed was the ant as a role model.

Here is what King Solomon said:
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

(Proverbs 6:6-8, NIV).

As a parent, I have been called upon on a few occasions when my children were very young to get rid of ants that had invited themselves to their rooms. Children like candies, sweets and other sugary food items, and so their rooms often attract ants. I do not have that problem anymore because the children are grown enough to know how to prevent ants from getting to their rooms.

God created man in his own image. Man is the best and highest of all of God’s creation with the power to rule over all creation. After creating man, God said everything was very good (Genesis Chapter 1). Why then would wise man King Solomon advise some of us to go and learn from the ant, one of the tiniest creatures with a very tiny brain?

It may sound as an insult to the intelligence of many of us to consider ants as our role model, but maybe we should heed Solomon’s advice by making a few personal observations about ants. While we are doing so, we should note that Solomon did not advise us to learn about the anatomy and physiology of the ant. By those measures, the ant would be no match for man. Rather, Solomon wanted us to consider the ways of the ant. He believed that we can learn wisdom from observing the ways of the ant. For example, we would learn that ants are self-motivated and hardworking; ants plan; and ants are united in purpose in a community of sharing.

Ants are self-motivated and hardworking. As King Solomon pointed out, ants have no commander, overseer or ruler. Yet, they know what to do to survive. They are constantly on the move. Waiting to be told what to do all the time does not demonstrate initiative. One way to shake off laziness is to force yourself to be a self-starter.

Come to think of it, a lazy ant will find no food, go hungry, grow leaner (not much flesh there to start with), and be blown away by the wind onto its death. So it is with our Christian life. If we do not feed on the Word of God, equip ourselves with prayers, and participate in fellowship with a Bible-believing community of the brethren, we will grow spiritually lean and be blown away by any passing wind or any magician who can quote portions of the Bible.

Ants plan. Ants understand the weather patterns and act accordingly. They are goal-oriented. They know when to gather, when to eat, and when to store the food they have gathered. In lean times, they rely on the food they have stored.

One top observation, in my view, is the unity of purpose that ants demonstrate in a community of sharing. Ants tend to be united when they have to handle a task, which usually revolves around food. They believe that in unity lies strength. When one ant finds food, it goes to inform members of the community to come and help eat it on the spot or carry it to a safer place to eat it. Human beings tend not to do that. Some of us would hide the food until no one is around even if doing so creates the possibility that another person may find and eat it all.

A case in point. In the days of Prophet Elisha, the people of Israel were attacked by Arameans who surrounded and laid siege to Samaria so that no Israelite could leave or enter their own city. This caused great famine in the city. At the entrance of the city gate were four lepers who were considered unclean and therefore excluded from the rest of the people. One day, unbeknown to the lepers, the Lord had frightened the Aramean army who deserted their camp thinking the Israelites had received help from other armies who were coming to attack them.

The lepers went to the camp to surrender in order to obtain some food instead of suffering slow and certain death. To their surprise, they found the camp deserted and plenty of food, silver, gold, and clothes left behind. The lepers did exactly what many of us would do: they ate and drank to their fill, and hid a lot of the items before they went to the city to inform others (2 Kings Chapter 7).

The early Christians were not like that. They acted like ants -- they lived as a community, were united in Christ, and shared what they had (Acts 4:32-37). Today, instead of sharing, some are stealing from others or misappropriating for themselves what belongs to all of us.

King Solomon’s advice is applicable to all, including those of us who do not consider ourselves as sluggard or lazy. All of us know that often times we fall short of our own potentials or standards. For example, we have the capacity to pray a little longer and many times than we usually do; read the Bible a little longer and more frequently than we usually do; attend Church service or fellowship more frequently than we usually do; spread the Gospel in obedience to the Great Commission much better than we usually do; love and respect each other more than we usually do; and share a little more than we usually do. In addition, when we consider our regular jobs, careers, businesses, or other works, we often do not demonstrate work ethic or dignity of labor to the fullest extent of our potentials. That means there is room for improvement in all of us and so we may be able to learn a thing or two by observing the ant.

However, with all the important things going on in this world and the challenges we face as humans, who gives any thought about little ant, let alone consider it as a role model? The ant is lucky if we do not step on it unknowingly, or knowingly as a nuisance that needs to give way.

And so the next time your children want you to get rid of ants, or you are tempted to get rid of ants on your own initiative, hesitate for a minute, observe, and use it as a learning moment. Note how active and energetic ants are; consider their unity of purpose and sense of community; and admire their discipline and orderly approach to execution of the task at hand. All of us can learn from these observations. What a difference all of us could make for our country if we collectively behaved like ants – an active community united with a common purpose to achieve the highest goals of moving our country forward.

Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.

Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.