“Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler” (Proverbs 6:7).
OK, we HAVE to look at this verse in context, or it’s meaningless. Proverbs 6:6-11:
6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. 9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
It’s not that long ago I posted about the sluggard’s excuses, but this time, I’ll post on the sluggard’s education — he is to learn from the ant.
Verse 6 is a very famous verse. If you had Biblically literate parents growing up (and maybe even if you didn’t), you probably heard this verse in one of your lazy moments. And the lesson to learn from the ant is to work hard in the summer, because winter is coming — to work when you can, when work needs to be done, to be ready for the future.
Well, that’s pretty easy to understand, though not so easy (for those of us who like to claim we are genetically predisposed to laziness) to actually do. But my summary there jumped from verse six to verse eight without a pause, cruising right past verse seven as if it isn’t even there. That seems to be the way this passage is usually treated — call someone a sluggard to get their attention, tell them to be wise like the ant, and then cut to the good stuff in verse eight as quickly as you can. If you notice verse seven at all, notice it quickly and move on! Since all Scripture is given to us to equip us for every good work, perhaps we shouldn’t just act as if the Holy Spirit inspired this verse to even out the number of verses, or something. There are lessons here in verse seven for the sluggard.
The Hebrew word is qatsiyn, which means “guide” or “leader”. It is connected to the Arabic root “to judge”, and Bruce Waltke says this “signifies the chief who preserves order.” The word is used in Isaiah 1:10, and refers to those who organise religious observances (v. 13) and are expected by God to ensure justice (v. 17). This would perhaps be comparable to a supervisor who watches over the workers all the time to make sure they are accomplishing the desired purpose.
The Hebrew word here is shoter, which means an officer or administrator. The root meaning has to do with one who is writing or listing personnel. We might compare this to the mid-level executive who makes sure the supervisors have the work crew and equipment they will need to accomplish their task.
The ruler (moshel) appears to designate the “big boss”. He’s the one to whom everyone answers. He’ll hire you and fire you, make sure there are funds to pay your wages, and make sure the whole endeavour is rolling along. He decides what the supervisor is going to tell you to do.
A FEW LESSONS
It would be a mistake to assume that these different words are intended to sharply distinguish between different roles. That’s not the point here. The point is that ants have none of them, no supervisors, middle managers, or big bosses — and if a sluggard wants to stop being such a sluggard, he should learn from the ants. So let’s learn a few lessons from what diligent ants don’t have.
They don’t have someone else to “boss them” into getting out of bed in the morning. If you depend on someone else to get you up and going, it’s time to start thinking about growing up. Even the ants are showing you up. This is step number one to killing your sluggardliness (is “sluggardliness” even a word? I don’t care :)).
They don’t need someone else to tell them what to do all the time. They take initiative. Instead of sitting around waiting to be told what to do, they find what they need to do and do it. If you just start training/reminding yourself to take initiative, you are well on the way to winning this battle.
Ants don’t fight over who is going to do a job, and ask for a referee to make sure they aren’t doing more than their fair share. They all just pitch in until the job is done.
Ants get to the place where the work is being done without someone reading their name off of a list. Sluggards are often so allergic to work that they dare not even be in the vicinity, lest someone look at them and say, “Hey, get to work!” Get to where the work is being done, and you might find something useful you could do.
Ants don’t say, “If only someone would hire me, I’d work.” They don’t need a boss, they just find work to do and do it. If you are a sluggard, and you want to stop being one, find some kind of work you can do. God will bless that in many ways.
Ants don’t need someone to make them get along with other workers, they just cooperate and focus on the task at hand. Sluggards often end up in conflict with other workers, either because they aren’t doing their share of the work or because they’ve learned that conflict gives them an excuse to stop working. If you want to try to stop being a sluggard, focus on the task and cooperate with other workers.
An ant doesn’t need someone looking over his shoulder to keep him working. Instead of needing external accountability, hold yourself accountable.
If you are lazy and don’t want to change, I’m sorry I wasted your time with this post. Go back to cruising the ‘Net for whatever it is you were looking when you stumbled on this post. But if you know you are lazy, AND you want to change, the ants have lessons for you. Forget the sluggard’s excuses, and start working on the sluggard’s education. Learn from the ant. Take some initiative, focus on the task, hold yourself accountable.