Why We Teach. Why We Learn

bible-Sunlight

It is my belief that the best method of education, according to Scripture, is to build/learn it on the foundation of this advice from Proverbs: “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death”[1] (Proverbs 13:14). The very good question of ‘why is it important to learn’ can be applied to anyone. According to Proverbs, the most basic answer is, so you don’t die. From the time we are born, we are subjected to potential dangers which are very obvious. Dangers like, cars, angry animals, fire, too much water, sharp things, not eating or being fed, to name a few. This is especially important in the early stages after birth, but still important for the rest of our life. It is safe to say that if we’ve reached a ripe old age, we’ve learned how to do some things for ourselves. But we don’t do many things outside of learning.

We may begin learning or teaching ourselves things from the very first day we are born. As mentioned above, some of those things we learn about are very obvious, and many things we learn from painful experience. But the author of the Proverb isn’t simply talking about the obvious things. The author is also talking about those things which are not obvious: Deception, hatred, greed, once again, just to name a few. These are things about which we must also learn a great deal in order to survive. We can be guilty of trusting the wrong person to our own demise. The world is no safe place for the uneducated.

I’ve recently been reading through the Pentateuch with my wife, and have finished the book of the Law which has many kinds of Laws in it that address many obvious snares, and some not so obvious snares. It is interesting to learn that this Law was responsible for the prosperity of the Hebrews early in their existence as a nation in the world with land given them by God so they could live as His people there. The second to last chapter in Leviticus is full of verses about the blessings and curses that are associated with either following this Law or not following it. We learn similar things in our own country when we begin school. Laws regarding safety and social laws like: ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ and ‘look both ways before you cross the street’. To not follow these ‘laws’ of life will end up risking one’s own opportunity for life, and so we must be diligent to teach each other in order to survive the wild.

As I mentioned before, though, there are many not-so-obvious things we need to learn if we are going to eventually live together in this world in peace and harmony. Those lessons indeed come from Jesus himself in a popular sermon called the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5). I think we mistakenly think He’s talking to those people who possess those traits, but He’s actually addressing all of us, and imploring us to become those people, so that we may obtain the blessings associated with living that life. In the Biblical narrative, there is no one better at teaching than Jesus, as He used many parables, which are more like allegories that possess a lesson embedded in a familiar story. But we can attach the purpose for learning these things back to the Proverb which Jesus would have known well, that teaches us that to learn is to receive the true gift of abundant life.

Jesus’ use of the parable was mostly exclusively used to teach spiritual gems of wisdom and prophecy while using imagery that the people of the day could process in order to obtain the treasure locked within. But it’s clear that even then, Jesus’s disciples continually asked Him to explain what he meant by these parables. Today, we have the benefit of commentaries in the form of Epistles from the disciples to teach us what Jesus represented to us, and what he taught through his life, as well as writing about some things in hindsight. But His disciples didn’t have that revelation to draw from. So Jesus began to explain what he meant, and that is where the teaching process was completed. He painted the image they could draw from, and then told them what it meant so that they could “see” what he was trying to teach them. Using these mind tactile senses, Jesus imprinted His word upon their minds, and by proxy, in their hearts. They used the written word to teach us those same parables, and by that, we have learned what Jesus taught His followers long ago.

So we have a purpose for teaching, and a proven method for teaching. It is for the spiritual lessons that we really learn how to grow, and it is the physical lessons we learn in order to use the wisdom we obtain in order to achieve our growth over generations. We can’t limit our learning to physical lessons, even though they teach us to pay attention to obvious dangers and opportunities, we must also learn the spiritual lessons so that we may learn how to notice the less obvious pitfalls in life which can ultimately lead to our physical death. It is on this foundation that we sit to learn anything at all. Our curiosity may just be the thing God knew we would need in order to pursue knowledge and wisdom, so that we might live for our appointed time, rather than carelessly walk ourselves into our own demise.

In conclusion, our purpose for learning is to stay alive, both physically and spiritually so that we may live the life that God has designed for us to live, as well as obtain the promises that God has chosen to give us in order to live in relationship with Him. There are many methods people use to teach, but imagery which is easily understandable seems to be the method chosen by the one ancients called “Teacher”, and His lessons have lasted millennia in order to teach us still today.

[1] All scripture from the NASB, Copyright 1995, The Lockman Foundation

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