Four Small Things — A Gospel Look at Productivity

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The KidzMatter Blog/Productivity/Four Small Things — A Gospel Look at Productivity

In Proverbs 30, Solomon, the wisest man who ever walked the earth, penned these timeless truths that still ring true today. 

"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; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces." (Proverbs 30:24-28 ESV)

You may be thinking “what do these lines about four small animals have to do with my life in ministry?” And I want to suggest that this passage can give us a gospel lens for viewing productivity.

Solomon announces that four things are small — the ant, the badger, the locust, the lizard. Small things are often overlooked as insignificant and inconsequential. 

And yet here we hear these trivial creatures are given the highest title of all — “exceedingly wise.” They provide their food in the summer. They make their homes in the cliffs. They march out in ranks. And they are found in Kings’ palaces.

Let’s take a look at why Solomon uses these four specific creatures to illustrate the wisdom of productivity.

The Ant
We should be quick to work, quick to execute and efficient in our moves. An ant seeks to do work when work can be done. The ant doesn’t sleep during the harvest. During the summer, the ant is diligently laboring and storing up treasures of food and resources for future months.

Diligence is the attribute of wisdom associated with the ant. Diligence is doing what no one else is willing to do, when no one else is willing to do it. The ant works in summer when there seems like there is nothing really urgent to do. The wisdom of the diligent works ahead, creates margin for the future, and gets prepared. Do work when you do not have pressing deadlines and you will be ahead.

The Badger
Rock badgers are not strong. However, what the rock badger lacks in physical strength or intensity of fight, it makes up for in wisdom. The rock badger wisely hides itself in the rocks. Once tucked inside its little cavern, the rock badger automatically has security as the walls of the mountain protect it. The rock badger itself does not need to be strong; it has positioned itself in a stronghold.

Military leaders have learned this lesson the hard way: have a one-front war, not war on all sides. And yet ministry leaders seem to think they are immune to over exposure. When leaders attempt to pursue every idea that pops into their heads, they get destroyed by an avalanche of problems. They are not working from a position of strength. Let me be very bold and clear: Every ministry pursuit will face challenges. Those challenges will need time, attention, and resources. Similarly, every front of war needs troops, munitions and resources. The problem with a multifront battle, however, is that your energies get spread thin and quickly. Like a rock badger, you will find more productivity in your ministry if you take on new initiatives and face challenges and issues coming only from one place, not attacks from everywhere.

The Locust
Solomon tells us locusts are wise. Locusts go out in ranks, though they have no king. Typically, a king or general sits on a high hill so as to have a birds-eye view of the battlefield. The king’s commands organize a formerly rag-tag outfit of soldiers into a strategic force. Organized troops work in unison. Though troops may be strong, an organized strategy wins battles.

In spite of having no king or no direct leadership, these small insects go out in ranks and systematically destroy every green thing in their path. 

And yet, I have seen ministries suffer blunder after blunder because they are not organized. Disorganized ministries under communicate and miscommunicate. Disorganized ministries waste volunteers' time. Disorganized ministries appear frazzled and exude stress. Momentum and joy seem to evade the overwhelmed and disorganized ministry. 

Organized ministries plan everything before it is time to execute. An organized ministry effortlessly works the system they labored to build. We need to embed systems in the back end to produce life and health on the front end.

The Lizard
Though small, the Lizard gains entrance. “How did that lizard get in there?” Obstacles do not stop the Lizard. Is there a large wall standing in the way? The lizard climbs it. Is there a tiny crack? The lizard squeezes through. The Lizard makes it across the castle moat, over the drawbridge and past the armed guards. The Lizard gets through doors intended to keep others out.

The Lizard gains entrance with the right people. The wisdom of the Lizard asks two important questions: “who do I need to get in front of?” and “how do I get there?”

Having an audience with the right people can greatly impact your ministry work.

​If you are looking to increase productivity in your ministry work, you do NOT have to follow the cultural standard of “go, go, go, try harder, and sleep less.” If you are looking to increase productivity, look to the wisdom of scripture.

Josh Denhart, a seasoned educator with qualifications in Chemistry Education and Effective Instruction, is renowned as both a children's ministry curriculum writer and performer. Through creations like “The Amazing Chemistry Show” and “Science VBS”, he blends his love for science and Christ, while empowering parents through resources like “Science Devotions @ Home”. Josh also shares his expertise as a regular guest on the morning TV program “Great Day” and contributes to publications such as Children’s Ministry Magazine and KidzMatter Magazine.

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