When Your Ears Itch

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

We live in a hyper-intellectual age. We think that if we could just teach people enough, just get good doctrine out in front of them, then we could solve their problems. So we start blaming the prosperity preachers for their false teaching, we blame the internet for far-too-quick access to the newest new age guru, and we blame the book section at Mardel for making us sort through mountains of Christian fluff before we find anything of substance. But Paul does something interesting in 2 Timothy 4. He says that people, instead of listening to sound doctrine, will accumulate teachers that will suit their passions. He moves the picture from innocent masses being duped by bad teaching to hordes of people grabbing whatever teacher they can shove in their ears so they can keep on sinning.  Is the preaching from the pulpit weak and insipid? It is probably because the congregation doesn’t want to be challenged. Is “Eat, Pray, Love” on America’s bestseller list? That is as much of an indictment against the American people as it is against the author.

How does this look in our lives? Do you lament the fact that you don’t have strong friendships where people are willing to correct and guide you? Then maybe you should think about how you reacted the last time that someone tried to correct you. Do you wish that your pastor preached biblically? Maybe you should ask if you have been complicit in tolerating false doctrine. The congregations of weak pastors wither and die when the Christianity of the people is strong.

Now, 2 Timothy was written to a pastor, and it is not wrong to see that there is a corresponding duty to preach faithfully. False teachers are wolves and they should be held responsible for twisting and distorting the truth. But we cannot forget that those who are deceived are often more than willing to be deceived. The sinfulness of people leads to bad doctrine just as much as bad doctrine leads to sinfulness