2 Tim. 4:3, For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
One of the young ladies I work with showed me a spot on her neck last week. She reported at the time that it was a bite of some sort, and she presumed it was a spider bite. While she never recalled actually being bitten by a spider, she did recall having walked through a spider web in the darkness of night the previous night. She wasn’t even sure if it was a bite of any sort.
Here in our office, she received all sorts of advise on how to take care of the bright red spot on her neck. From old ”down-home” remedies to modern over the counter medicine, she was given all sorts of ideas and strategies, many of which she tried. I didn’t give her any advise though as I didn’t really know what was wrong and, to be quite honest I had not really thought of it since.
When she came and sat down in my office this morning though, the first thought that popped in my mind was the spot on her neck. I asked her how it was and she said it was worse and had grown in size. As she showed me the spot, I could tell visually that it was bigger than when I saw it last and it appeared to be a darker shade of red. I asked her if she had been scratching it and she said no, not much, but that it felt better when she rubbed it or gently scratched it. The itch she said was not that bad, but it was present.
As we talked and others walked into my office to offer more remedies and solutions, my mind wandered to 2 Timothy 4 and Paul’s warning to Timothy about what would happen in churches. Paul told Timothy that the people would, not might, would begin to have itching ears and as a result begin to gather up teachers that fit their passions. Paul’s conclusion was that this itchiness, would result in people throwing sound doctrine away, turning away from listening to the truth, and would wander off into myth (fables or fiction).
That term “itching ears” has always struck me as a funny one. I remember the old wives tales that if your right ear is itching, it means someone is speaking well of you, but if your left ear is itching, it means someone is speaking ill of you. While those sound good, I don’t quite think this is the itching that Paul was speaking of.
No, Paul was speaking of ears with only a slight itch, or possibly even a tickle. Paul was speaking of that nagging little itch that may be associated with a wound that is trying to heal. That ringing of nerves and shockwave of feeling that, ever so small, can almost drive a person crazy if we don’t scratch it. Then we do scratch it and what do we feel? It is sweet relief. Yet, soon after that initial scratch the itch returns, sometimes even elevated in its calling “SCRATCH ME!!!”
This is the itching that Paul is referring to. It is an itching in our ears, a desire to hear that we are doing just fine. A desire to hear that you are doing just great. Even more perverted though, is the desire to hear that you are doing good and that everyone else is the problem. Never has this been more obvious to me then yesterday as my wife was watching video of a women’s conference at a modern day worship center. I could overhear the audio and as the speaker railed about how their new revelations were the right way and all who spoke against them with Bible in hand were wrong, you could hear the crowd applauding. None more so than the one who was obviously holding the camera. With the speakers pointed comments and insulting jabs, the lady holding the camera would laugh while saying “HALLELUJAH!!!” It was somewhat sickening and it occurred to me that many in that all of those in that room were having their itching ears masterfully scratched. Their lust for something that I have yet to put my finger on was in full display and they were more than jubilant about being fed unsound doctrine and myth.
Who knows where that itch comes from? As was the case with my friend who was bitten, she has no recollection of where her sore came from. She only knows that she walked through a web. No sting, no sudden pain, just a new spot that desired to be scratched. All she did was walk through the web. For those who Paul was referencing though, many webs have been walked through. It could be a book of feel good, prosperous, theology. It could be a highly emotional, feel good experience. IT could be the desire to “be part of something special.” It could be the desire to use an artistic talent in church. It could be any number of things that fulfill our various lustful desires. There are too many to name, but think about what in your life has caused you to wander away from sound doctrine, assuming you have ever even heard it.
Paul’s remedy to this itch? It is found in verse 2 of 2 Tim. 4: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Preach the word. Preach the word. Preach the word.
How simple is that? It should be very simple, but we find ourselves in chaos in the church today because people no longer want to do this. They desire to rush off to something new or hear things that are pleasing to them, convicting only others of sins, never themselves. It is important to note that this is a practice that begins with the teachers who they gather up for themselves. One question that needs to be asked though, and this is not the place for answering it currently, is if this gathering up and following of lusts is a conscience decision.
I am certain of one thing though. My ears itch for the gospel and this to me is one mark of our faith. While I would love to hear a sermon about how the acts that I do, the charity that I give, the money that I give to the church, the time and effort I afford to the church, the sharing of the gospel to others that I participate it, all make and mark me as righteous, I know that such a sermon would have no place in the Christian church. At the same time, while I would love to hear a sermon about all of the things that I need to be doing better on and how some man or woman 100 years ago overcame the same struggle through human persevearnce, trying harder, or contemplative prayer, I know that sermon holds no place in a Christian church.
Instead, my ears itch for Jesus. My ears itch to hear that because of my sins, past and current, Christ walked the hill of Calvary in order to have nails driven through his limbs. My ears itch to hear that Jesus saves and that no act that I can ever do will ever trump or match that sacrifice. My ears itch to hear Christ died for me and I want to hear it over and over and over and over.
I have no doubt that some day my desire to hear that message and my desire to teach that message will some day cost me not only pulpits but possibly my life as persecution continues to worsen and grow in our “home of the brave.” Yet, I know that I can rest easy in following Paul’s instruction to teach the word and in following Christ’s command to keep (protect, share) the word. For my ears no longer itch for the applause or approval of man. No, my ears itch to hear “well done my good and faithful servant.”
As my friend and co-worker sat in my office this morning with her itching sore, I offered her only one piece of advise. Go to the doctor, go to the person who can best help you and offer you the proper cure. While I could have shared with her what I thought would work or other wives tales, I pointed her to where I know she will find the right answer.
I offer the reader of this the same. If you are finding yourself astray, following your own lusts, be it in life or in your faith, go to Jesus. He is the Great Physician and He and His will for your life are laid out in what Paul prescribed, The Word of God. Listen to what is being preached and taught in your church. Is it the word or is it someone else’s thoughts, fables, myths, or wives tales? If you cannot answer that consistently as yes or if you find yourself thinking that you will have to give something pleasing to you up in your situation, be it a title, a role, a friendship, that is the itching Paul was referring to. Think, and find a church where you are consistently and properly taught the word of God, the gospel of Christ, solely and consistently. For if you are never taught the word alone, you will never teach that word alone. TEACH THE WORD!