The Lesson of the Locusts

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"Locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks." (Proverbs 30:27)

Could locusts possibly have any wisdom for us? The migratory locusts in Proverbs are the ones that get mean. They are genetically programmed to change when they are under great stress, like during a great rain after drought. During all that period of drought before the stress, locusts live solitary lives. It is the solitary phase or stage of the locust.

But they get under stress when the rain comes, and they take on this amazingly brilliant coloration, bright yellow or orange and black. And they swarm.

The swarming strains live in very inhospitable terrains like the deserts of the Middle East. About 100 years ago, scientists measured a swarm of locusts across the Red Sea, 2000 square miles of locusts. Forty to fifty square miles of solid locusts. Scientists call it the gregarious phase. The Bible calls it a plague. When they swarm, they are in their gregarious phase, and they remind us of their wisdom: "they have no king but they can stay together in bands." It's the lesson of teamwork.

In the 1999 NBA semifinals, the San Antonio Spurs knew the wisdom of the locusts. They destroyed the LA Lakers like a plague. The commentators couldn't stop talking about the talent of the LA Lakers, but the Lakers never played like a team. The SA Spurs did. The Los Angeles superstars—Shaq and Kobe—were on a collision course. But San Antonio's two towers—David Robinson and Tim Duncan—played to each other's strengths. The Spurs weren't a group of five lone wolves out there, each doing his own thing, being his own showboat. They were out there as a team, swarming around that basketball court until they swept the Lakers in 4 out of 7 games. That is the wisdom—the lesson of the locusts—the power of teamwork and unity.

It is a lesson that Jesus understood well since he built His church with a team of twelve. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was far ahead of our management and organizational thinking—as far as earth is from heaven. He still empowers Christians with that same divine wisdom and divine capacity to build teams.

In one sense, the New Testament is the story of Jesus building teams. The gospels document his initial twelve-man team, but in Acts something completely unexpected happens. That one team started by Jesus multiplies and divides into many teams scattered all over the Roman Empire, and every new team is infused with His Spirit.

These teams were the early churches, and they demonstrated the unity of the Holy Spirit. For them, unity was principle one, the key to their focus. And their focus created an orderly, but not rigid, organization. An orderly organization is always the most creative, spontaneous, and alive.

Lone Rangers struggle with unity, and they can only accomplish so much on their own. Team players encourage unity because they know every whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, as long as each part remains humble.

The enemy of unity is self-importance—in either the leader or in the members of the leader's team. Imagine a swarm of self-important locusts! If insects can achieve such great things through unity, how much more the children of God. And the secret of unity and teamwork is humility.

Photo by Tan JS. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.