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Not One of Them Empty-Handedby Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
The Joyful Heart, September 2, 2000
A large ant colony has built its home under a crevice in the road pavement at my feet. It's not an ant "hill" exactly, but all around the large hole is a tiny mound made from the chaff of ten thousand grasses, shaped into a sort of low crater.
Out of one side of the crater passes a two-lane highway of ants. The outgoing column heads towards a destination unknown, while the incoming procession returns to the colony.
As I look more closely, I can see that each incoming ant is carrying something. Not one returns empty-handed. Their treasures seem small, miniscule to my eyes. One ant tries to maneuver a 3/4" straw along the trail. It keeps falling out of his grasp again and again, but he picks it up each time, and continues his ungainly journey home. Most of the other burdens are smaller. A wisp of something, a seed fallen from the now-brown grasses along the roadway. The size of each is tiny, almost worthless, one might imagine. But the collection of each tiny burden accumulates into a rich harvest for the colony.
Each ant is working for the whole — working industriously, tirelessly, to increase the general welfare, to work for the common good. Each brings what he finds to their common home, into store-caverns carved out many levels beneath the surface. An ant colony is a true "corporation," if you will. A "corpus," a body that is dependent upon the contributions of each and every one of its members.
I think of the church, Christ's body here on earth. Things are not as they seem, you realize. It's not great preachers or fine buildings that make us rich. Nor heavy offering plates on Sunday mornings. We are richest when each one comes with his or her own unique gift, the personal contribution of a each member out of love for the others.
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If a man's gift is ... serving,
let him serve;
if it is teaching,
let him teach;
if it is encouraging,
let him encourage;
if it is contributing to the needs of others,
let him give generously;
if it is leadership,
let him govern diligently;
if it is showing mercy,
let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:5-8)
"From him the whole body ... grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:16)
As each part does its work the body grows in strength and health, stronger and stronger. But sometimes our laziness and self-indulgence get in the way.
"I'm too busy."
"I've got too many things going on at work."
"I just don't know when we're going to be in town on the weekends."
"I've been teaching Sunday school in this church for 50 years. Let someone else do it."
A healthy church — the Church of the Living Savior Jesus Christ — needs both you and me, and our friends, and our brothers and sisters. Every single one. We all bring bundles of different sizes and shapes. Treasures of music and mercy, of love and loveliness, of grace and glory, of leadership and service. Teachers, counselors, encouragers, pray-ers, singers and musicians, preachers and custodians, repairers of the house of God. Door-knockers and gospel-tellers -- we need them all.
If you were prohibited from bringing money for your Sunday offering, what gift could you bring to the house of God to enrich the body of the Lord Jesus?
"Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!" (Proverbs 6:6)
I chuckle over those ancient words of exhortation, and the wonderful mental picture conjured up by the word "sluggard."
And then my mind's eye returns to the ant colony,
with its two-lane highway.
Ants going out recharged and fully fed,
and ants returning,
carrying a little something to enrich the body.
And not one of them is empty-handed.
Questions for Discussion
- Why are ants a good antidote for sluggardism? :-)
- What is the common secret of creating a successful colony or company or congregation?
- How are spiritual gifts like seeds ants bring to an ant colony?
- How can we encourage more people to bring gifts to help others?
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