Small but Wise

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer.”

- Proverbs 30:24–25

The various writers who penned the Old Testament Wisdom Books challenge us not to let the created order escape our observation; rather, we must pay close attention to the world around us, for God has embedded many lessons for us in it. It is no accident that the various sciences such as biology, astronomy, chemistry, and so forth have flourished in cultures that have been deeply impacted by the Bible. Many biblical texts model the study of the world around us, and passages such as Psalm 19 and Romans 1:18–32 tell us that the Lord has revealed Himself in the physical world.

Creation bears witness to the very character of God, and the Lord has designed the universe in such a way that human beings can learn how certain natural processes work, but He has also provided moral and practical wisdom in the way the world operates. Proverbs 30:24–28 helps us understand this in its presentation of four small but “exceedingly wise” creatures. The contrast between their size and skill calls us to pay close attention to what is about to be said. These are creatures whose appearance does not readily encourage us to see them as having anything to teach us. Yet, if we give them another glance, we will learn much from them. Note also the adjective “exceedingly” in v. 24. Their wisdom is so out of proportion to their size that they overcome seemingly insurmountable limitations. If we observe them carefully, what we learn will help us do the same.

Proverbs 30:25 describes the first of these small creatures, the ant. Individually, ants lack great physical strength, and yet they are able to survive and thrive. They even possess the capacity to “provide their food in the summer,” that is, they can store up resources for future use. Anyone who has observed ants for any length of time understands how they overcome their individual weakness—by cooperating with each other. One ant cannot transport enough food to feed the colony, but get a number of them together and they will work together to lift heavy foodstuffs and carry them back to the anthill. Alone, they are nothing; together, they can accomplish great things.

The lesson for us is obvious: wise people do not go it alone but work well with others. Individually, we all have many weaknesses that can hold us back. Collectively, as we work together, we compensate for others’ weaknesses with our strengths, and we can accomplish many important tasks.

Coram Deo

The cooperation we see among the members of an ant colony evidences the kind of wisdom that allows people to thrive when they work together—even when individual weaknesses might hold them back. Thus, it is not surprising that God in His wisdom has designed His church to work in such a way. The Lord has gifted each of us differently so that His church grows to maturity as we work together. Are you using your gifts in your local church?

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 14:1–16
Ecclesiastes 4:12
Mark 6:7
Ephesians 4:1–16

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