THE TERM “SMALL FOUR” is derived from a passage in the Bible which states: “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise” (Prov. 30:24 New International Version, emphasis ours). The “small four” refers to four creatures or animals. Despite their smallness, they are extremely wise. What are these four small things and why are they extremely wise?
“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” (Prov. 30:25-28 NIV)
The four small things are the ants, coneys, locusts, and lizards. Although they have certain weaknesses and disadvantages, they also have certain good qualities. It is important to have those qualities in order to improve our living condition especially in these trying times.
“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Prov. 30:25 NIV). Ants are not only known for their industry—they keep going and going looking for food while they can. Ants cannot gather food during winter or even the rainy season. Hence, they store up food in the summer.
Ants display foresight—the ability to think ahead and to envision possible future problems or obstacles (Microsoft Encarta, 2009). A person who has foresight knows the value of time. The Bible itself shows how important time is: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccles. 3:1 NIV).
Time is one of those precious resources given to us. A person who knows its worth will not waste it. No one can regain lost time. The young generation should consider this and learn foresight from the ants. In the near future, the children of today will marry and start their own family. Are they prepared for such a great responsibility? Someday, their parents will be gone. Can the children of today be able to stand on their own feet once that happens? Thus, the youth are given this biblical advice: “Listen, my son, be wise and give serious thought to the way you live” (Prov. 23:29 Today’s English Version). Wise children are those who give serious thought to the way they live. They do not waste their precious time on wicked things that only prevent them from attaining their noble goals and aspirations in life. As early as possible, the youth should learn diligence and hard work.
“The coneys, a race without defenses, yet they make their home in the rocks” (Prov. 30:26 New Jerusalem Bible). Vulnerable as they are, coneys make their home among the rocks.
Coneys are resourceful enough to turn their disadvantage into an advantage. They use the softness of their bodies to insert themselves easily between rocks, where they can find their home and protection.
We humans have our own sets of weaknesses and disadvantages. We should not make these an excuse not to be able to improve our living condition. Let us also strive to overcome them; do our best to improve our own abilities. But most especially, let us seek refuge in the “Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness.” The Bible states: “With God Who is our shelter and refuge. In the Christian era, the strength from God is felt through the power that Christ gives. Apostle Paul experienced this:
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:9-10 New King James Version)
We should find strength and protection from our Lord God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is sufficient for all our needs. When we are weak, that is the time when the strength that God gives through Christ is all the more felt in our lives.
“Locusts have no king, but they are able to work together.” (Prov. 30:27 Easy-to-Read Version)
One locust does not pose a threat to anyone. But when locusts arrive in swarms, they are a force to reckon with, as the ancient Egyptians in Moses’ time witnessed. The plague of locusts devoured “everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees … in all the land of Egypt” (Exod. 10:13-15 NIV). However, it is not the destructive behavior of locusts that we should imitate. Rather, it is their working together as a group. This is called teamwork and collaboration.
As there is strength in number, there is strength in unity. We can achieve greater things by always upholding the spirit of unity (Eccles. 4:9, 12).
Take note also that locusts have initiative—“no king, but … work together”. One should have this quality to succeed in life.
The Bible states that “a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (Prov. 30:28 NIV).
Lizards are everywhere. They live not only in ordinary houses. They can also be found in kings’ palaces. This shows the lizards’ determination despite their physical imperfections.
Therefore, setbacks or negative experiences can be turned into positive ones. Apostle Paul teaches: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans” (Rom. 8:28 Living Bible).
All that happens to us, including painful experiences can work for our good. We may have different imperfections and handicaps but we should not lose hope. We should have the determination to work hard to prove ourselves and achieve our goals in life. Various “rags-to-riches stories” serve as testimonies to the significance of having determination—firmness of purpose, will, or intention (Microsoft Encarta, 2009).
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise. We can all benefit from the wisdom of the “small four”: the ants’ diligence and foresight, the coneys’ resourcefulness, the locusts’ teamwork and collaboration, and the lizards’ determination. So it is wise—and it pays—to be diligent, hard-working, and persevering.
By FRANKLIN T. BUNAG