“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”The Parable of the Sower in the Bible, Mark 4:3-8
Teaching is like planting seeds, and learning is like what’s produced. It’s a function of the soil and conditions in which the seed is planted. True acceptance of the teaching requires the student to:
- not let it lie only on the surface of their mind (i.e., along the path for birds to eat)
- refrain from being satisfied only to have it penetrate a little deeper and take root in their emotions (i.e., on rocky, shallow soil to get scorched)
- let the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth, and competing desires go unchecked (i.e., among the thorns to be choked)
- cherish the teaching deep in their heart, guarding it against enemies and letting it mold their character and conduct to its principles (i.e., in good soil producing a fruitful crop)
Learning requires a teacher (sower), knowledge (seed), and student (soil). Yet, true learning will only result when the student opens their heart to receive the teaching and steadfastly nurtures it. Moreover, not all learning will be equal, but according to the student’s faithfulness and diligence. In other words, the learning will be different for everyone according to their talents, habits, and faith.
For the teacher, patience and favor are required for the seed to take root. Why both? Because there are different levels of patience depending on the type of student, and favor is showering extra grace on a student while having love for every student. In this context, I’m referring to grace as the free and unmerited favor of God. Please don’t confuse favor with favoritism. They are extremely different. Favor originates from God. Favoritism is from humans. It’s possible to extend favor without engaging in favoritism. It’s possible to extend favor and still be fair.
Levels of Patience
Students (soil) come in all shapes and sizes. Patience is like water for the knowledge (seed) that is planted in their heart. Some need more patience and some less.
- Tenacious Patience. Some students are weak and in need. They need more than just short-term help. They need long-term help which requires patience. This type of patience is tenacious and clings to the student even after days, months, or years of inconvenience or sacrifice.
- Enduring Patience. Some students get easily discouraged. They are “glass is half empty” types and often struggle to see how they will ever learn. Regularly encouraging them is especially taxing over time and requires an enduring patience.
- Correcting Patience. Some students could do more and contribute more, but are content with doing just enough to get by. They refuse to take responsibility and initiative and need loving correction. This type of patience needs to actively admonish them to warn them, exhort them, and wake them up.
Favor vs. Favoritism
Every student (soil) needs to feel favor, not favoritism, for true learning. Favor is like nutrients for the knowledge (seed) to grow. Favor cultivates a receptive heart whereby they feel valued and loved. It enables and empowers them to nurture the knowledge that is planted.
- Favoritism is granting favor because of a special status, superiority, or commonality. It manifests itself with special favors based on some fraternal code or elitist attitude. Favoritism intentionally neglects the needs of many to accomodate the greeds of a few. Favoritism is exclusionary.
- Favor is granting grace to a few out of a love for everyone, i.e. your neighbors. Favor prioritizes the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Favor is inclusionary.
We can learn from The Parable of the Sower, which is a story for you, me, and everyone. We have a Good Teacher who freely gives us patience and favor. Won’t you join me in becoming a good student? Won’t you help me grow neighborly love?