“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Paul’s second letter to Timothy is his last letter. He had, by his own words, fought the good fight and finished the race. (2 Timothy 4:7) On the eve of his departure to be with Christ, Paul passes the baton to his young protégé in ministry with some final instructions.
Paul warned Timothy (and us) in this letter that in the days to come, two great challenges would arise within the Church.
First, there would be people professing Christianity who are lovers of self, money and pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) And we have experienced examples of that throughout history. Today’s sex and greed scandals in the Protestant church and the still-not-fully-revealed pedophilia/cover-up scandal in the Roman Catholic Church are just the latest examples.
Second, Paul said the time would come when Christians would turn away from the sound teaching of truth to scratch their “itching ears” with teachings that, while false, affirm their own passions, preferences and life styles. My friends, that day has clearly arrived!
It has long been said that people hear what they want to hear. In 2009, the American Psychological Association published research revealing people were twice (and often three times) as likely to select information that supported their own point of view rather than consider information that would support an opposing idea.
The biblical description of this phenomenon was provided long before 2009 by Jesus in speaking about His own Jewish people:
“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)
What was a serious problem for God’s people then is a serious problem for God’s people now, and it applies to both our lives within the Church and our lives in the world.
As to the world, where all Christians are ambassadors for Christ, look at the performance of our politicians and media during the Kavenaugh hearings, and how many Christians zealously flocked to one side or the other based on our own political views. Whether I switched from Fox News to CNN, or switched talking from one neighbor to another, it was as if I was living in two completely different worlds at the same time.
We are turning on the news outlets that cater to our point of view. At the same time, those news outlets, whose owners and reporters also have “itching ears”, are crafting both what they report and how they report it to harmonize with our existing point of view. This secures their viewing base and ratings, which makes them their money.
In the same fashion, the speeches and ads of our politicians are crafted, usually with half-truths, to appeal to the things we presently favor or fear the most. They know that will increase the likelihood we will not even listen to the other side.
To my knowledge, no one is simply reporting “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
Within the Church, the most blatant example of “itching ears” is the liberal theology that no longer embraces the sovereign right of God, rather than man, to reveal through scripture what is good and what is evil. (2 Timothy 3:16; Genesis 3) I have written several articles on this.
But even in the Bible-believing Church, the “itching ears” problem is rampant.
We all want to hear about grace, unconditional love and everlasting life. We eagerly embrace theological positions that are in harmony with our social and political positions just like we embrace worship styles that offer our kind of music. And we choose our churches and preachers accordingly.
How many churches out there are emphasizing, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus?” (Luke 9:23) How many are emphasizing “Love your enemies in truth and deed by treating them the way you want to be treated”? (1 John 3:18; Matthew 7:12) How many are in love holding people accountable when they fail to do these things? (Galatians 6:1-2; Hebrews 10:24-27)
The answer is “not many” because that doesn’t scratch “itching ears” and keep people in the pews.
My friends, let’s stop scratching our itching ears and let God heal them. Jesus is the Truth, and we need to zealously pursue truth. It is the truth, and not what we “want” to hear, that will set us free. (John 8:32)
God bless you, and God bless our community.