A Bug’s Life – Does It Matter If We Matter?

Thematic Reflection

Was a bug, little bug, hardly there. How he felt, what he dreamed, who could care? 

So begins the Randy Newman song that brings A Bug’s Life to a close. In many ways, these lyrics sum up the principal theme of the film. Like Flick, a single ant scrambling through an endless sea of insects, our individual contributions often seem to be inconsequential, even superfluous. Lost in the movement of the masses, it is not just what we do that seems to be dispensable. We feel dispensable. 

Because of our fears of living in obscurity, we have a deep-seated longing to be more than a cog in the machine. We want to matter. And, as people of faith, we want our lives to have eternal value. We want them to be redemptive and transformative. We want to change the world, so we engage extraordinary measures to undo all that is wrong through the sheer force of will, ingenuity, and creativity.

This desire to live an extraordinary life informs everything we do. Regardless of what I, as an individual, commit my time and energy to, I want it to matter that I am the one who does it. If it were not for me, in all of my particularity, something integral would be lost. This basic impulse, although fundamentally good, has a tendency to become disoriented—which is why a story about an inventive little ant and his rag-tag collection of “warrior bugs” can be so instructive for human beings. Much like our own journeys, Flick’s story does not culminate in the glorification of his individual brilliance over and against the needs of the colony. Rather, it offers us a picture of how an individual’s uniqueness finds a home in the midst of a diverse, life-giving community. 

Like Flick, we each have a particular set of gifts, capacities, and talents with which we were created. But as Ephesians reminds us, these abilities are only fully realized as part of a larger, more intricate whole. It is for this reason that diversity is the life-blood of any vibrant community. Although we are each uniquely gifted individuals, in our brokenness we tend to value certain gifts at the expense of others. Over time, this disoriented system of values undermines the community of faith in its ability to breathe life into an increasingly diverse and complex world. Just as Flick discovered, the bugs living in the loud, colorful world beyond Ant Island were the key to survival for his insular little community. And in a strikingly similar way, it is only as a collection of outcasts, misfits, and ordinary human beings that the Christian community might function as a redemptive presence in the world while experiencing that redemption themselves.

In response, we have to ask some basic questions, both as individuals and as members of a particular community. As an individual, are my attempts to matter rooted in a desire to contribute to the lives of others in meaningful ways, or am I simply seeking recognition and adoration? As a community, are we creating space for a variety of gifts, affirming and empowering those who do not look or act or sound like all the other “ants” in the colony? In other words, does every member of our colony—no matter how seemingly odd or insignificant—have the freedom to live as one who is infinitely valuable?

Key Scenes

Clip 1

Clip 2

Discussion Questions

For Adults

Watch Clip 1, and read Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13.

1) What are your unique gifts?
2) How do your gifts contribute to the lives of others and to this community?
3) Do you feel as if your contributions are recognized and affirmed or overlooked and disregarded?

Watch Clip 2, and read 1 Corinthians 12:12–26.

1) What gifts within our community do we tend to elevate?
2) What gifts do we misunderstand or even actively suppress?
3) In what ways does our community suffer from a lack of diversity? How can we change that? Should we? What would we gain? What would we lose?

For Families

Watch Clip 1, and read Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13.

1) What are your unique gifts?
2) How do your gifts contribute to our family?
3) Do you feel as if your contributions are recognized and affirmed or overlooked and disregarded?

Watch Clip 2, and read 1 Corinthians 12:12–26.

1) Does our family elevate some gifts over others?
2) Do you feel your gifts are ever misunderstood?
3) How can we as a family do a better job of honoring and rejoicing with each other?

For Students

Watch Clip 1, and read Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13.

1) What are your unique gifts?
2) How do your gifts contribute to the lives of others and to this community?
3) Do you feel as if your contributions are recognized and affirmed or overlooked and disregarded?

Watch Clip 2, and read 1 Corinthians 12:12–26.

1) What gifts within our community do we tend to elevate?
2) What gifts do we misunderstand or even actively suppress?
3) In what ways does our community suffer from a lack of diversity? How can we change that? Should we? What would we gain? What would we lose?

For Children

Watch Clip 1, and read Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13.

1) What are you really good at?
2) Has anyone ever made you feel like you don’t matter?
3) Do you ever feel small and overlooked like Flick? How does that make you feel?

Watch Clip 2, and read 1 Corinthians 12:12–26.

1) If you could have any talent, what would it be? Why?
2) If you could change one talent that you have, what would it be? Why?
3) What is good about being around people who are different and unique?

Related Scriptures

I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . .

It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
(Ephesians 4: 1–7, 11–13)

For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. If the foot says, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a  member is honored, all rejoice with it.
(1 Corinthians 12: 12–26)

More Resources for Further Reflection and Discussion

Helping others see the value of diversity and adapting to that reality is a difficult process. Read more on Leading for Transformational Change.