The Ant Farm

Editor's Note: This is from a sermon given on November 24, 1991, by Darrell Foltz. Darrell was later killed while doing mission work in Africa. He was a friend of the Does God Exist? work, and this sermon was submitted by his wife, Juanita. We share it with you in his memory.

Our Lord often used Parables in his teaching. The word "parable" denotes "a placing beside." It signified a placing of one thing beside another, with a view of comparison. Often the people who heard the parables of Jesus did not understand them and ask for an explanation. Many other times Jesus simply left us to make our own application in the light of the subject being discussed.

Speaking in parables is NOT one of my gifts. I can never tell a story and get the point across. In my 20 years as a speaker on Lessons of Love, I have never used parables in teaching. But today I want to tell you a parable, hoping that it will help us pause and look honestly into our own hearts and our own relationship with God. So listen closely to the Parable of the Ant Farm.

Bob, John, and Tom--three brothers wanted to do something. "I know," suggested Bob, "Let's make an ant farm--the very best one that's ever been made." "O.K.," agreed John. "But let us do it scientifically, so that everything about it will be exactly right. I'll get the glass for the case."

"It should be one fourth inch thick," spoke up Tom, "for sturdiness." "And tempered," added Bob. "We don't want any danger of breakage."

"If we make the faces two feet square and the side pieces two inches wide, that will be just the right size," Tom said. "Large enough for a whole colony of ants, but not too large to move or to take care of."

"Epoxy glue will hold the glass pieces together."

So the boys set to work. The first day they prepared a place for the ant farm; a table in the den with warm light coming through a south-east window. "The temperature and the light will be right here," Bob said.

"And we're always in this room, too, so we can watch the colony grow and build," Tom added.

The next day they brought the sheets of thick, clear glass. With a ruler they carefully measured and marked each piece; then John ran the blade of a sharp cutter along the lines. A little pressure and--presto--one by one the two large face pieces and the four side pieces took shape. While John used the blade, Bob and Tom gently rubbed sand paper along the edges of the cuts. Then they cleaned each edge so that every particle of dust was removed. Tom mixed the epoxy and Bob used a small brush to spread an even coat along the edge of one of the side pieces. Tom and John positioned it--just so--along the bottom of the front sheet, holding it firmly until the glue took hold. One by one, each piece was glued and fitted, leaving only the top open.

Day three! The boys were excited because the ant farm was beginning to take shape. They checked the work of the day before and found that every joint was holding well. The epoxy was set and a durable case had been made for the ants home. "Now, let's get clean sand to put inside," Bob said. "We're ready to make the place livable for the ants. Part of the sand was brought from the beach, white and salty from the sea water. Then they put a layer of red coarse sand, and, last, a mixed layer of gray and red and white. "That's beaautiful!" Tom exclaimed, as he stood back to look at their handiwork. Bob and John agreed.

The fourth day of work had begun. "Now we have to use this round cutter to make a hole in the top piece," Bob said. "We'll lift it out and glue a little hinge on it, like this, so we can open and close it."

"That's great!" Tom said, as he watched Bob work. "Now we can easily put the food inside."

"I want to make another little hole in the top," John said. "In it we can attach a small funnel which will empty into this piece of tubing. The tube has tiny holes along its length. We'll glue it to this top piece of glass, and through it we can provide a consistent supply of moisture for the colony."

The fifth day of the making of the ant farm, all three boys brought supplies of food and even some small green plants to be set in the sand. "These will live," John said. "The moisture from the tube will be enough for them and for the ants." "Now, let's double check," cautioned Bob. "Is everything ready? Whatever the ants will need is here?" "Yes," agreed John. "Not only have we thought of everything they'll need; we've made a safe and beautiful place for them." "Then tomorrow we'll find two ants and put them inside their new home," Tom said.

The next day was the most exciting of all. Finally, after a careful search, they found the perfect inhabitants for the farm. "I know," laughed Bob, "we can call our ants Adam and Eve, and this will be their own little Garden of Eden." "That's a good idea!" agreed John and Tom.

As the two ants were placed gently on the sand, the boys watched with fascination. "Look! They're exploring!" Tom said. "They've found the food!"

"Now they'll begin to tunnel to make a storage place--and they'll make a nest for eggs," Bob predicted. True enough, as the days passed, the ants worked to develop their colony. Eggs were laid and hatched. The population grew, with many kinds of work, and workers for each job. The ants made an ever-growing network of tunnels, and there were many storage places for food. "Adam" and "Eve" grew to be hundreds, and then thousands of busy, busy ants, each one hurrying along his way, doing his job.

Through the glass view of the network of tunnels, the boys watched the ants' coming and goings, their new hatchings of eggs, their involved community life--and the boys continued to supply food and water, so that the ants lived in plenty.

One day, two young ants scurried along, side by side. They were many generations removed from "the beginning." They had only heard of the first two ants who had been placed in the farm, but those stories seemed like fairy tales to Geri and Gemi. All they had ever known was the sophisticated life of their modern world. "Just where do you suppose all of this came from?" Gemi asked as he made his way along the tunnel.

"There are two different ideas," Geri answered. "Some of the older ones among us say our whole world was planned and made especially for us by some Great Ones, long ago. But the scientists say there was a "Big Bang" and this place just happened."

"Just happened?" asked Gemi. "Things don't just happen'! Even our tunnels and storage rooms and nests don't 'just happen'. We've worked hard to make all of these things--and our whole world is so much greater than this. How could it have "just happened?"

"You've never seen a Great One, have you?" jeered Geri. "If they were there, we'd know it."

"Do you mean WE'RE the most important and most intelligent things in existence?" asked Gemi.

"Of course," Geri laughed. "Where's something bigger."

Through the cut-away view of the tunnel against its glass wall, Bob, John, and Tom watched the ants scurrying along. "Do you think they see us?" asked Tom. "Probably not," Bob answered. "We're so much bigger than they are, their eyes and minds probably wouldn't comprehend us."

"But when we give them their food and water every day, they should realize that someone greater than they are is taking care of them," Tom spoke up, voicing his thoughts aloud.

"Maybe they're too blinded by their own little world and their own hurry-scurry busy-ness to see that there's a larger world around them," Bob said. "Maybe, in spite of all we've done, they don't even know we're here."


This week our nation has its annual day of national Thanksgiving. The early Pilgrim fathers who came to the New World to find freedom to worship their God were the first to observe this day of Thanksgiving. They were free from the tyranny of political rulers trying to force a state religion upon them. They were alive after a winter of great hardship. An abundant harvest had been gathered in. Thanksgiving to God seemed the NATURAL thing to do. Yes, they had Indian friends who did not know their God, with whom they wanted to share their Faith and their Blessings. As far as I know the United States and Canada are the only two nations in the world that have a day of national Thanksgiving. How wonderful to live in such a nation. We are the envy of the world.

Yet, to me there is a black shadow of sadness that falls across this day. That which starts out as a spontaneous giving of thanks from grateful hearts, in time may become an empty ritual, and then finally it becomes an exercise in HYPOCRISY--offered from thankless hearts and lips which no longer believe that God has any relevance in modern living. Drive by the places of worship on any given Sunday and notice the FEWNESS of automobiles in comparrison to the crowds around the race track, the lakes, the places of pleasure and entertainment. Years ago the editor of the Salina Journal estimated that on any given Sunday it would be less than 1/4 of the people of Kansas who even make a pretense of worship.

In our Parable of the Ant Farm, the little creatures were so busy as they hurried about in their confined prison that they never thought of the One that supplied them an abundance of food and the necessities of life. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul told the people of Lystra that their blessing came from the bountiful hand of a good and beneficent Creator. The Parable of the Ant Farm is well illustrated by those in Acts 14. The people of Lystra were totally unaware of the Creator "who made the heaven and earth." They were so busy walking "in their own ways" and doing their own thing that all they thought about was that their own ingenuity and strength had accomplished all things. Just as the ants did not realize that their food and water were supplied by another, greater than themselves, so the people of Lystra had to be reminded that it was GOD who gave from heaven the rains and fruitful seasons, filling their lives with food and gladness" (Acts 14:15-18). If God were to withhold His gifts even briefly, we would all perish.

The godless humanistic philosophy that saturates the school systems of America, fills the air waves with the idea that nothing is greater than MAN himself, is not new. It started with Eve when she decided she would be "like God" (Gen 3:5). It was seen at Babel when man decided he would reach heaven by his own efforts (Gen 11). The Ants, in their glass prison, might boast that there was none greater than themselves, for they had never seen the "Great One." So we, in our pride, may pound our chest and boast, "We are the Greatest." In our Busy-ness and self-involvement, we ignore all evidence that points to the ONE who both GIVES and SUSTAINS our very life.

Indeed, man hurries from one job to another, and from one pleasure to another, proudly boasting, "It is MINE! ALL MINE! Look at my great attainments and the work of my hands!" Blinded by the world’s allurements, and kept so busy seeking the empty bubbles of pleasure the world offers--bubbles that burst the moment they are touched--that we are not even aware of "HIM in whom we live and move and have our being." In spite of all that God has done we don't even know if God exists, nor do we WANT to know.

Today I gave a "Call to REPENTANCE!" Both INDIVIDUALLY and NATIONALLY, may we experience a turning to our God. The EVIDENCE for the EXISTENCE and rich PROVISION a Wise and Good CREATOR has made for the well-being of His creatures is everywhere about us. However, we need more than an "ant brain" to see it. TODAY is the day for a genuine Repentance and turning to God! "For the wicked shall be turned back into hell, even all nations that forget God" (Ps 9:17).

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, March/April 1996