The Death Jar
”Dad, can you help us?
Mom’s scared. She screamed, and she almost dropped the jar
when she saw an ant on her finger!”
Although I love teaching science,
I have never been too keen on crawling things. Several years
ago, however, we put together an art farm, and it was the
most amazing thing! We watched tiny eggs hatch into little
transparent babies, and then looked on in wonder as they
grew and joined the ranks of their hard-working kinsmen
in running their glass-encased colony. They, of course,
were completely oblivious to the world outside the jar—our
world. They had no idea how much God was teaching us through
them. Their diligence just came naturally, along with their
sense of responsibility for one another, and their energy
So this time around, just a
few weeks ago, I was determined to put together another
ant farm for my little boys who had not yet had the experience.
And I could’ve done it without
help, if those ants hadn’t been so…well…ant-like.
Once safely enclosed, however,
we eagerly looked on as our busy little science projects
began re-building a new colony. Over time, tunnels were
dug and little rooms began to show through the tunnels.
We carefully fed the ants their honey and water, and cared
for them just like our science book told us to. Since I
considered myself a “veteran ant-farmer,” I was confident
that we would enjoy our project for many weeks.
Gradually, though, we began
to notice a new room built amidst the tunnels. It appeared
to be some sort of burial ground. After further observation,
we noticed that our ants were moving a bit slower, and were
methodically carrying more and more dead colony members
to this one room. They stacked the dead, one on top of the
other, and filled one room. They then began preparing another.
“Maybe we’re not feeding them
enough, Mom,” Jonah suggested. “…or maybe they aren’t getting
But no…I knew what the problem
was…our little ants had lost their zest for life, their
reason for living. Their little lives were meaningless without
a leader. Though we had filled the jar almost to the top
with ants, and even a few babies, we had failed to capture
a queen. Our worker ants had no one to work for—nothing
to live for, no purpose to fulfill.
Just caring for each other
was meaningless, without the hope of new life to carry on
Our ant farm had actually become
only a death jar to the living ones inside. Their colony
was only an empty shell—a pretense at life, a meaningless
effort to survive. But it was hopeless, pointless, and eventually,
all of the ants died, while carrying their comrades to the
While sitting once again in
our living room among 12 of our neighborhood kids, I began
to think about that death jar. Over the past few weeks,
we have been teaching these kids and teens about Joseph’s
life—how terrible things happened to him, yet how God meant
all of it for good. Joseph worked hard during his lifetime—you
see, he had Someone to work for—a purpose for living, a
zest for life. Even when thrust into captivity, Joseph refused
to live in a death jar—through family problems, lies, misunderstandings,
and prison time, Joseph diligently fought off bitterness
and anger, and sought his Master, his Creator. In the midst
of it all, Joseph had the Hope to carry on.
Upon finishing our Bible study,
Ken asked the neighbor kids,
“If you feel sure that you
have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I want you to
raise your hand…”
I watched as every hand but
one flew up eagerly. As I looked from one to the other,
I marveled at the goodness of God! I praised Him as I was
able to remember each one’s salvation experience over the
past year or so.
My eyes then fell to that one—the
one who did not claim Christ as her Savior. My heart went
out to her as I remembered the first time I met her—one
of the very first to come to our Bible study over a year
ago. Faithfully she comes every week. And it’s true, she
and her family live in a death jar—a large family, nice,
hardworking, busy…yet with nothing to live for, no One to
serve. I commit to praying for her and her family—as long
as it takes!
Do you live in a death jar?
As a man comes, so he departs, and what
does he gain,
since he toils for the wind?
All his days he eats in darkness,
With great frustration, affliction and anger…Eccl.
Or do you have Someone to live
…I have come that they may have
life, and have it to the full. John
© 2011. Faith Matters by Lygia Lovelace. All rights