Throughout the Bible, God asks many questions of individuals and of whole groups of people. We can learn a great deal by examining those questions and formulating our own answers. It would be wise to remember just exactly who it is that we are answering. The Bible is very clear that God sees and understands everything. The Bible is also clear that we will one day give an account to God Almighty of our deeds and our words. Jesus said in the New Testament that rather than pleasing men who might possibly be able to kill us, our top priority ought to be pleasing the One who could at any moment kill us and cast our souls into hell. After observing my own life and the lives of others, it is painfully obvious that we fail that test far more often than we pass it. Let us consider a question from Proverbs that could not be more pertinent and significant to our generation.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11, NIV)
As a pastor, I have been personally involved in much benevolence ministry and also observed a lot of benevolence ministry done by others. This must be the most frustrating type of ministry there is. Distinguishing the con artist from the truly needy is very difficult, no virtually impossible, and very frustrating. The minister of benevolence knows without a doubt that giving to a con artist hurts rather than helps that individual. It also reduces the ability to give to the truly needy. Proverbs 6:6-11 speaks to both the lazy and the foolish.
Do people plan to be unable to take care of themselves, to be dependent on someone else to work to support them? I don’t think so, but in the vast majority of cases it is certainly not an accident either. A few people are purely victims of circumstances that could neither be prevented nor foreseen. Most would have difficulty answering the question posed in Proverbs quoted above. Remember that the question does not come from me or any other man, it comes from God Himself.
The point of the question is to get the lazy and the foolish to do some serious self-examination and realize that poverty creeps up slowly because of our wasting of time. Too many days are missed at work and the job is lost. Too much time is wasted on the job, the tasks go unfinished or take too long to be finished, the business closes down, and jobs are lost. The sluggard fails to see the long range consequences of his laziness and foolishness. Poverty and need will arrive at their door unannounced and unexpected. Poverty and need will come in power and strength. The sluggard will not be able to fight them off. Take God’s advice. Learn from the ant: work diligently, save money for the bad times that will surely come, gather food, store up provisions while it is still possible. You will be glad that you did. Surely foolish spending is a part of the problem but I will have to leave that discussion for another time. Furthermore, the New Testament takes this discussion to another level in telling us to work diligently so that we will be able to help the truly needy.