Proverbs 6:6-11

Proverbs 6:6-11 "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man."
Buffalo NY Christian Church
In the first five verses of this chapter, Solomon teaches his son the fallacy of co-signing for a friend.  While staying on subject, it appears that he abruptly shifts to a different audience in verse 6.  In verses 1 and 3, he clearly addresses Rehoboam when starting each sentence with “my son.”  In verse 6, surely he addresses a new audience when he writes, “thou sluggard.”  It is probable that he is addressing his son’s “friend” (verse 3) that needs a co-signer for a loan of some sort.  He is writing as though after telling his son to get out of the co-signing agreement with his friend, this unhappy friend has issue with his counsel and Solomon then addresses the real problem – his laziness.  

Loans are necessary when we don’t have enough money saved and ready for use.  Much of the time but certainly not all of the time, we don’t have enough money saved and ready for use because of a lack of discipline.  Most of the time, we need loans because we lack financial discipline in spending and saving or because we lack income as a result of poor work ethic.  Assuming these eleven verses are tied together (and there is no reason to conclude that they’re not), it would appear that this lack of discipline is the reason for this young man’s need of a loan.  When a young person needs a loan (perhaps with the exception of modern excessive tuition loans), it is often because they lack discipline in financial matters.  With youth comes big eyes and small patience.  It is common for a younger adults to take out a loan for vehicles, furniture, electronics and other expensive items.  Because of a lower income and a lack of credit, these loans typically require co-signers.

In these verses, Solomon is addressing the real problem behind the co-signing dilemma – a lack of discipline. This young friend shouldn’t see Rehoboam’s request to withdraw from the loan agreement as the problem.  He shouldn’t see Rehoboam’s father’s counsel as the problem.  He should see his lack of discipline as the problem.  Ultimately, he should see his lack of wisdom as the problem.  Solomon attempts to redirect this young man’s focus off of the Debbie-Downer-Dad and onto the Industrious Insect.  He attempts to redirect this young man’s attention off of the big king on the throne and onto the little creature in the ground.  Solomon is not attacking this young man for needing a co-signer – he is sincerely attempting to help him.  He didn’t just call him “sluggard” in order to intentionally offend him – he called him, “sluggard” to get his attention and ultimately to get him help.  His intention to help the young man is clear when he admonishes the youth to “consider the ant’s ways and be wise.” 

In his efforts to teach steer this young man in a better direction, he teaches all of us two important lessons:

1. Foolishness is the Father of Failure.

In verses 6-8, Solomon shines the spotlight on the little ant.  This tiny creature has no leader.  The ant has no king, captain, commander or coordinator.  In an ant colony, the queen is the source of life as she brings life to the colony but she does not bring direction or command to the colony.  Ants live in colonies that consist of millions of individual ants who know their roles and carry out their responsibilities faithfully.  There is no teacher, pastor or counselor telling them what to do.  There is no mother or father harping on their young to make sure they’re being responsible.  By nature, each individual ant knows that it is must be disciplined and diligent if it and the colony are going to survive the harsh condition of its world.

The ant is diligent because it is wise.  The ant is disciplined because it is prudent.  While there is abundance in “harvest,” the ant is busy preparing for the inevitable time of need.  The ant has a strong work ethic because it has a wise mindset.  The ant has a sound savings plan because it has a wise mind.  The ant doesn’t need a father to tell it to save or to spend, to work or to rest, to borrow or to lend, to co-sign or to withdraw from a co-signature.  Solomon’s intended audience is surely upset with him for interfering with the loan so while his focus is on another man’s father, Solomon draws his attention to a little creature who doesn’t need the input from a father.  Essentially, he says, “if you were wise, you wouldn’t even need a father to turn to or to deal with.” 

Solomon wants his son to avoid the foolishness of co-signing and he wants his son’s friend to avoid the foolishness of taking out unnecessary loans.  When he addresses this friend, he doesn’t tell him to “be more disciplined” nor does he tell him to “be a harder worker.”  When he addresses the “sluggard,” he doesn’t tell him to “be a better steward” nor does he tell him to “be more diligent.”  When he turns his attention to the young friend in need of a loan, he tells him to “be wise.”  The problem with this young man was not his work ethic or his financial philosophy – those were just symptoms of the root problem.  The primary problem with this young man was not in his hands – it was in his head.  This guy lacked wisdom.  Our mindset determines our work ethic.  Our mindset determines our financial approach.  How we think determines how we handle money.  How we think determines how we work.  The ant’s mindset is what determines the ant’s diligent work ethic.  The ant’s mindset is what determines its approach to saving food.

The most important thing our children need to learn is not how to work but why they should work.  The most important thing young people need to learn is not how to save but why they need to save.  The rainy day will come and the snow will fall.  Injuries will happen and nothing in life is predictable or controllable.  Proverbs 27:1,  “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”  Ecclesiastes 9:11 “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”  If our children are taught only to work, then they will focus on their career and that will come at the expense of their family.  If our children are taught only to save, then they will focus on their money and that will come at the expense of their faith.  Our children need to be taught wisdom so they understand why they should work and why they should save.

Consider the little ant for a little wisdom can accomplish much good.

There is a second lesson in these verses:

2. Procrastination is the Parent of Poverty.

Again, Solomon is not intending to offend this young sluggard as much as he is trying to get him to THINK.  He wants this young man to think about how much time he is wasting when he could be working and saving money.  Solomon is not against sleep or rest at all.  In Ecclesiastes 5:12, he wrote, “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much.”  He understood the necessity of sleep and even the wisdom of rest.  As a Jewish man, he understood that God implemented an entire day of rest on the seventh day.

He is trying to help this young man be wise and manage his sleep by the right mindset.  There should be a time “WHEN” he awakes.  There should a limit to “HOW LONG” he sleeps.  He should set limits to how much and how long he sleeps so he can prepare for the colder days ahead just as the ant does.  A lack of wisdom will lead to a lack of discipline.  A lack of discipline will lead to a lack of food.  Solomon pronounces imminent poverty where there are no parameters put on sleep and rest.  Such poverty will come without warning and without invitation just as a traveler comes.  Poverty will come to the procrastinator like an unwelcomed knock on the door from an out-of-town family member.  Not only will it come unannounced, but poverty will come to the procrastinator undeterred.  It will come as an “armed man” and it cannot be stopped.  The sluggard welcomes poverty by procrastination and fools himself when he says, “we’ll deal with it when it comes.”  The sluggard who cultivates poverty by a lack of discipline will not get himself out of poverty with a sudden burst of discipline.

A LITTLE creature with wisdom can produce much good.
A LITTLE sleep because of a lack of wisdom can produce much hurt.

The person who thinks a “little” more sleep won’t hurt eventually gets hurt.  The person who thinks a “little” more rest won’t be a problem eventually creates a problem.  The person who thinks a “little” delay won’t be a dilemma will find himself in a dilemma.  The person who lacks discipline in sleep, in work, in duty, in responsibility, in returned phone calls, in returned text messages, in returned emails, etc. fools himself into thinking his “little” liberties are no big deal when in reality, his “little” lee-ways are not as “little” as he thinks.  People don’t trust procrastinators.  People don’t lean on procrastinators.  People don’t hire or promote procrastinators.  Paul the Apostle warned against justifying any amount of a lack of discipline when he said, “Know ye not that a LITTLE leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).  In Solomon’s Song, he warned of LITTLE foxes” that spoil the vines (2:15).

The young man whom Solomon is addressing in these verses was probably thinking, “all this because of a LITTLE loan? All this because of a LITTLE signature?”  This young man lacked discipline because he lacked wisdom.  This young man lacked diligence because he lacked wisdom.  This young man saw no danger in a “little” sleep because he lacked wisdom. The procrastinator puts off getting up because he lacks wisdom.  The procrastinator puts off getting to work because he lacks wisdom.  The procrastinator puts off getting to a world of responsibility not because he is lazy – but because he is first foolish.

Procrastination is the Parent of Poverty and Foolishness is the Father of Failure.

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