Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise.
Which, having no guide,
overseer, or ruler,
provides her bread in the summer,
and gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you sleep, O sluggard?
When will you arise out of your sleep?
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to sleep—
so will your poverty come upon you like a stalker,
and your need as an armed man.
A wayward person, a wicked man,
walks with a perverse mouth.
He winks with his eyes,
he signals with his feet,
he motions with his fingers;
perversity is in his heart,
he devises mischief continually, he sows discord.
Therefore his calamity will come suddenly;
in a moment he will be broken without remedy.
These six things the Lord hates,
yes, seven are an abomination to him:
a proud look,
a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked imaginations,
feet that are swift in running to mischief,
a false witness who speaks lies,
and he who sows discord among brethren.
My son, keep your father’s commandment,
and do not forsake the instruction of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart,
and tie them around your neck.
When you go, they will lead you;
when you sleep, they will keep you;
and when you awake, they will speak with you.
For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light;
and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. (Modern English Version)
A proverb is a short, pithy statement of experiential truth. In life, all things being equal, there are some predictable consequences to each decision and action we take.
To make idle, wicked, or adulterous decisions will result in disastrous outcomes – and the proverbial writer wants to help us steer clear of calamity. So, we have some sound and sage instruction which is meant for us to realize contentment and fulfillment in life and avoid the pitfalls of laziness, evil, and infidelity.
We may typically think of the sluggard as a lazy person who just doesn’t want to work. That’s true, yet it runs even deeper and broader than that. A sluggard is someone always looking for the easy way out. Instead of persevering and being diligent in accomplishing large projects and demanding responsibilities, the sluggard tries to use their ingenuity to get the job done quickly.
The student who wants to take shortcuts, and doesn’t do the busywork of citing sources, or doing their due diligence in research, is a sluggard. The worker who cuts corners in order to move to another job they’d rather do, is a sluggard. The spouse who hastily buys some cheap flowers for their loved one from a street vendor, without even getting out of the car, is a sluggard. The minister who cuts and pastes some information from Google the night before teaching a lesson, is a sluggard.
And the results will likely be quite predictable: an “F” on the term paper; a punitive citation from the building inspector; the disappointment and anger from a wife; and the rebuke from a church. There’s no one to blame. All these sluggards will be out of a job and poverty will cozy up to them sooner than later.
What to do? Get some humility. Bend down and look at the busy ants. They work steadily, consistently, and carefully – and never lack.
The truly evil person enjoys creating chaos and upsetting folks through running their mouth off like a canon.
They get a kick out of poking the bear, sticking a hornets’ nest, and stirring the pot. And their chief means of doing it is their tongue. Damaging words are thrown about. Gaslighting, arguing, backbiting, slandering, and lying are the tools of their trade.
The wicked person might get what they want, in the short term; but in the long term, their end is sure. Brokenness and calamity will eventually catch up to them. They, like the sluggard, will have no one to blame for the consequences which overtake them; the ire of God will consume them.
What to do? Repent! Do a complete 180-degree turn from hubris to humility, lying to honesty, violent speech to encouraging words, disunity to harmony, separating to connecting, and from selfish behavior to working for the common good.
The adulterer is one who is unfaithful. They make commitments and renege on them. The classic adulterer is one who cheats on their spouse and breaks their vow of marriage. Yet, there are various sorts of adultery that happen in this old fallen world.
The spiritual adulterer says they are committed to God, yet keep up a moonlighting affair with the world. The mental adulterer might never sleep with another, yet is committing deviant acts in their mind with others. The emotional adulterer gives a smooth line, yet is only trying to manipulate another into something the other person doesn’t want to do.
What to do? Come back to what you learned in childhood. Most parents, even if they fail to live up to their own instruction for their children, want what’s best for their kids. To nearly every adulterer, we can say, “I know your mama taught you better than that!”
An idle life, an evil tongue, and adulterous behavior will ultimately result in disaster, if left unchecked. The compiler of Proverbs is checking-in with us, making sure that we keep in sync with the good and beautiful way to live; and letting us know that the alternative to right living is some very calamitous consequences.
So, what will you choose?
Blessed and almighty God, take me to the place where I am saved from my pride and arrogance; where Christ’s humility becomes center-stage in my life; and where I’m lifting up clean hands and a pure heart in prayer. God and Parent of all, I bend my knee to receive truth; and I open my ears to receive counsel, and my heart to receive wisdom. Amen.