Spiders Are Wonderful Teachers :: By Ron Ferguson

Today (a few years have passed since then) I did some cleaning up in the lounge room where I have too much stuff – computer gear, files, papers, books, camera items, etc. Then I vacuumed the floor and noticed spider webs around the ceiling and the curtains, and vacuumed the spiders that were there – rather smallish ones. In Australia they are called “daddy longlegs” spiders. While I was sucking them in, I was struck with the thought of their persistence. There is one thing certain – they will be back!  Some thoughts regarding spiders, I felt compelled at the time, to put together:

  1. THEY CHOOSE THE MOST ADVANTAGEOUS POSITIONS. Most of these today are found up where the ceiling and walls meet, and the best place was in the four top corners of the room. There they get traffic from all positions and take advantage of the corners. There they sit silently and wait, exhibiting great patience.

As Christians, we should always be on the lookout for the most advantageous positions for the work to be done – the gospel outreach and other ministry. I suppose this is a bit like being out on the highways and byways. There is probably too much expended effort in Christian work and money wasted, which is poor stewardship, when we ought to be aiming at the best advantage with the limited resources.

  1. THEY CLAIM THE MOST STRATEGIC PLACES. Have you noticed how fond spiders are of lights, and window areas where insects and bugs are attracted by internal lights? Have you noticed how some have taken the best possible positions in tree boughs and between trees, constructing large web areas in the flight paths of insects? One family of spiders fascinates me, and that is the jumping spiders. They are small with perfectly rounded multi-lens eyes, but they know which bush or plant or leaf will give the best results. They wait there, and when a tiny insect comes, not even tiny in some cases, they will jump on the victim.

With our Christian resources, we must make the best strategic use of those resources as possible.  Meaningful, purposeful. We must spread the net wide between the trees. The parable of the wedding feast infers that they must almost be compelled in. That is determination. We must go to the “lights” of this world to catch the lost souls. Jesus did. He associated with the publicans, prostitutes, the needy, and he met people “on their own turf,” I think the expression is. He did not hesitate to speak in synagogues, from boats, on hillsides, outside a tomb, on a well, and at feasts.  Some Christians have laid strategic claim to the Internet in these days with great success. Of course, so has the enemy.

  1. THEY WORK ENTHUSIASTICALLY. Have you ever watched spiders make webs? They know the task in hand and work with purposeful enthusiasm until the web has been completed. Up, down, back, forth, in, out. What I like about it is the logical approach they have, not disorganised or higgledy-piggledy.

“Faint not.” We have that in the Word, but so easy is it for us to be distracted by trials and personal matters that we faint along the way, and the task is unfinished. Spiders don’t start the web and then stop in defeatism. It is not webs we make, but the web to the spider is its whole existence. Our whole existence should be to do the will of the Father in heaven, but we lose sight of that goal too often. Yes, there is a lesson here. The spider is so goal-focused. What about us? How do we rate?  Ever heard the term “Fair-weather Christians”?

  1. THEY KNOW WHAT PERSEVERANCE IS. Have you ever noticed a spider build a great web in the early evening and gather it up again next morning with nothing caught, and rebuild it later that day? OR some build in the morning for the day? I have. They might do that day after day in the face of danger, storm, wind, and without result, with nothing ensnared. The spider is a wonderful example of endurance.

How much perseverance do we show when we do not get results? I am reminded of the statement about putting the hand to the plow and not turning back. I think there is some sort of flea protection for dogs in Australia with the motto, “keeps on keeping on.” It is that endurance in the face of danger, storm, and wind that makes one a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Especially when there is no tangible result for much expended effort. Remember Noah? 120 years, and not one convert, but did he show faithfulness? Yes, faithfulness and perseverance. I don’t speak this out of achievement – only because I know failure. What a commendation it will be to hear, “Well done, you good and FAITHFUL servant!”

  1. PATIENCE IS A DISTINCTIVE QUALITY. A spider might sit in the center of its web hour after hour and looks like it’s dead. Patiently, it just sits and waits. All through the night it will do that. You might think it is asleep, but just tap the web gently and see the immediate response. Perseverance (patience) is commendable.

Patience is a virtue required of Christians. How little we show sometimes when we allow the matters of daily living to get on top of us, or we struggle with victory through tough circumstances. We are currently in the dark night of Christian history with the dawn somewhere ahead. The dawn for us will break with the wonderful rapture of the saints. Until that time we must wait with patience, and run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus all the time.

“Not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:3-5, NASB).

  1. SPIDERS ARE NOT WASTERS. When prey is caught, it is not discarded but eaten if the spider is hungry. If there is ample food, then the victim is wound up in silk and stored. One big, yellow-golden banded spider has been doing this around my back patio light. It is an orb-weaver, but the biggest orb-weaver I have is the Golden Orb spider that can have an 8-inch leg span. That is the female; the males are very tiny. (We have lots of spiders here in the tropics.)

Christians are to use resources wisely. Yes, we can look back sometimes and see the wasted years, and the failures, and the questioning episodes we have been through. Remember the commendation for the wise ant in Proverbs that gathers its food. Prov 6:8, “Prepares her food in summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.” We are stewards of all that God has given us – finance, time, folk in our Christian meetings, etc. Let us honor God as faithful, good stewards of all we have.

  1. SPIDERS CAN BE USEFUL BUT CAN CAUSE GREAT HARM. All arachnids do a wonderful job of insect and vermin control, but they can leave an unsightly mess around, and get into areas where they are not wanted. We have a redback spider in Australia that can get into cupboards and dark places, but its bite can hospitalize people. It has featured in one of the top-rated country songs of the past called “Redback on the Toilet Seat” by Slim Dusty. Yes, that does happen! North America has its tarantulas. We have trap-door and funnel-web spiders, all dangerous and can be deadly.

Christians can do the cause of Christ great good, but likewise they can do great harm. What is the perception of us? This is one point we should always be aware of. May the name of Christ never be slandered because of us. Another point is this – we have in Australia a large but harmless spider called a huntsman spider, wrongly named by many here, a tarantula, even though no tarantula spiders are in Australia. We may at times be wrongly judged as a tarantula where this verse applies: 1 Peter 3:16, “and keep a good conscience so that in thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ, may be put to shame.” May we never be “biting spiders” in God’s fellowship to cause pain to fellow Christians and cause harm. Watch behavior, tongues and actions.

  1. SPIDERS USE A VARIETY OF STRATEGIES. Some build webs; some physically hunt; some hang from threads and wave around; some make holes in the ground; some lurk in the night; some hunt by day; some ‘fish’; some practice net-casting; some spit; some spring/jump on their prey; some hide inside flowers. One amazing spider we have is called “the tent spider.” There might be dozens of them, and they all build together in this great conglomerate of webs that can occupy an area of up to 15 square yards, or up to 6 cubic yards.

Christians should be showing flexibility in ways things are done, in how outreach is conducted, etc.  Of course, we are not talking of compromise here. Sometimes Christians are afraid to venture out of their very small comfort zones. How many ways of outreach can you list?

  1. SPIDERS SHOW DISCERNMENT. I have actually tried to fool a spider, which is sitting and waiting in the middle of its web, by tapping part of its web or dropping a small leaf onto the web. The spider was not fooled. It sat there because it did not get the correct vibrations. When an insect landed, off it raced and grabbed it with not the slightest hesitation.

All too often we get fooled by “taps and leaves.” True discernment is a valued quality in the lives of Christians. How often some of us lack it. More than ever we need discernment in this current deluded, devious world. We need it more and more. Wisdom is a desired quality that many Christians lack because I know I do often. We might blunder into something, or digress on the wrong track, or get caught out and tricked. We get fooled by the tapping of the world or by the leaf that falls on us.

  1. ENTICED AND DEVOURED! In some species, the female is larger than the male. The male is enticed by the female for mating, which the male seems happy to do, but immediately upon completion, the female kills the male and often eats it. He has been enticed to his doom. In the golden-orb spider I mentioned in “6” above, the female can be over 100 times the size of the male; I have seen accounts where it says up to 300 times. There are many of these tiny things running on the web of the female, wishing to mate with her, but destruction awaits them.

There are two applications here. Firstly, how many Christians have been enticed by sin or by some alluring prospect – not that mating is sin – only to find they have been overcome by it to their downfall? I am reminded here by David and Demas and Judah and Samson and Achan and Gehazi and Ananias and Sapphira. The sad life of Samson is well known. Secondly, you would expect the two spiders to work together for a common purpose, but one proves untrustworthy and devours the other one.  Are Christians any different? Galatians 5:15-16, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you do not be consumed by one another. But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

Spiders indeed can teach us. In fact, many things in Nature have lessons for us. I hope this was instructive.