The Ant and the Sloth

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines laziness as: “disinclined to activity or exertion; not energetic or vigorous; a love of ease; not easily aroused to activity; slothful.”

The sloth is the slowest animal in Central and South America. They just hang upside down in tree branches all day long. Here is a quote from the Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia:

“The animal moves by advancing one limb at a time in a slow, deliberate fashion. Sloths descend to the ground only about once each week in order to defecate and urinate. When placed on the ground they lie on their backs or crawl with the greatest difficulty.”

The fastest recorded sloth was clocked doing nine feet per hour!!

That type of behavior may be fine for a sloth, but not for man who is made in God’s image.

Characteristics of Laziness

Laziness is foolishness, and Proverbs 6:6-11 provides five characteristics about laziness.

“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.”

Laziness is Foolishness

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

What a reproach that mankind, fashioned in the image of God, would be commanded to learn from the lowest of all insects, but the ant is our teacher. Look to the ant! As a kid I did a-lot of looking at ants, especially through a magnifying lens, but that is not what Solomon has in mind. You have stepped on ants, burned ants, and knocked over ant hills, but have you observed the industry and work ethic of the ant? Ants are not slothful. They are disciplined tireless workers!

“I hate work!” That is an unfortunate epitaph that is often uttered by Christians. We need to understand that work is not something we have to do in order to do the stuff we want to do. Work should be one of the joys of life! Look to the ant, sluggard! Be an ant, not a slug. A slug is a snail with no shell; they just camp out on leaves for days doing nothing but eating and digesting. Consider the ant and be wise because work is good and laziness is foolishness.

Laziness Requires Constant Supervision

“…which having no guide, overseer, or ruler…”

Ants are not forced to work. Ants are an example in industry; not slothful, not in need of slave drivers cracking the whip and screaming out threats to ensure the work gets done. Ants know their work and do their work without being forced. Let the slothful sluggard consider that!

The ant does not require supervision. (This does not infer that supervisors are bad.) The principle is that Christians should be industrious, self-motivated workers who do not require constant kicks-in-the-pants to get to work and finish the work! Consider this:

  • Do you work just as hard when no one is looking?
  • Do you work just as hard when the boss is away?
  • Do you work just as hard when the results will not be known?

Ants do. Most people do not. Christians should.

Laziness Produces Inconsistent Effort

“Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

Circumstances do not deter the ant’s work ethic; their effort is consistent no matter the season. A lazy person never works consistently; instead he has an “on again off again” effort. Please understand; the Biblical message is not work long hours all of the time. The Biblical message is work hard all the time. Do not take a lesson like this and use it as a proof text for being a workaholic and ignoring your family and/or church. Instead, have a consistent work ethic in order to:

To wise up about work is not to become a workaholic, but it is to establish a consistent and hard work ethic.

Laziness Always Needs to Rest

“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.”

Lazy people are always tired! Lazy people always need to rest. Some people lose their jobs because of illness and fatigue…their boss was sick and tired of them. Lazy people are big believers in naps, but their concept of a nap is an all day, work avoiding siesta. Some people can lie around on the couch all day and just wear themselves out doing it. That is foolishness.

Laziness Leads to Sudden Destruction

“So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”

The lazy person thinks that he is “getting away with it” when the consequences of laziness suddenly hit. The lazy man can expect to be bereft of life’s necessities. His misfortunes are already coming as he rolls over in his bed of idleness. The lazy man will be helpless when poverty comes; as helpless as a man staring into the barrel of an armed robber.

And when poverty comes it is hard to reverse. Keep in mind that Biblical poverty is not always linked to the financial; there is also a spiritual poverty. Laziness will lead to both. Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing.”

Consequences of Laziness

The five elements of laziness transition into the four consequences of laziness.


Proverbs 26:13

Was there really a lion in the street keeping this poor soul from doing his work? Absolutely not, because the Bible says “The slothful man saith…” The lazy person will say or do almost anything to get out of work. The lazy man looks for and/or creates excuses to not work, and nothing is too ridiculous: “A lion is in the street; can’t work today.” Too much time on your hands and not enough work add up to messed up thinking. After all, idle hands really are the Devil’s workshop.

While that may not be the gospel truth, it is true just the same. The person who will not work easily becomes the person who cannot work; filled with pathetic, passive excuses:

  • “I’m sick.”
  • “It’s not my job.”
  • “I’m tired.”
  • “I’m overwhelmed.”
  • “I don’t know where to start (so I can’t).”
  • “I don’t have enough resources.”
  • “I’m depressed.”
  • “I’m not paid enough.”
  • “He (or she) doesn’t work as hard as I do.”

Sure, there are instances when many of the above are valid reasons, but often they are nothing more than excuses for laziness.


Proverbs 26:14

A door opens and closes on its hinges but it does not go anywhere, and the lazy person turns and turns but does not go anywhere. The lazy person stands idle, like a door on its hinges, moving only when someone gives him a push.


Proverbs 26:15

The lazy man is too lazy to feed himself! The sluggard wants to be supported by someone else. Laziness produces apathy: “I don’t care. It’s not important. Wait until tomorrow.” Hard workers are excited about the next day, and looking forward to the next day’s opportunities and challenges.



Proverbs 26:16

The person who is lazy often does not think that he is! It matters not that seven wise men say he is; the lazy man knows that they are all wrong. This person attends church thinking that every sermon and lesson is for someone else. This man has an unwillingness to be influenced by the wisdom of others; certainly an unwillingness to be influenced by the Word of God.


About Travis

Christ follower. Husband of one woman. Father of three young men. Former 11B. Blessed to pastor the Bible Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, KY.
This entry was posted in Foolishness, Proverbs, Wisdom, Work and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Ant and the Sloth

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Ant and the Sloth | The Coffee House --

  2. Pingback: Antidote to Laziness: Study Some Ants « Thoughts on Scripture

  3. Pingback: Antidote to Laziness: Study Some Ants | Thoughts on Scripture

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