3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:3,4
Truer words have not been written, which have been more unreflected. The passage suggests that this will be the reality for the many. Yet not many critically consider their own ears. Can we safely assume that our preaching preferences come from our heart and not from our ears? If you will, let’s briefly consider whether it is our hearts that burn or if it is our ears that itch.
Presently, the inexhaustible source of the tickling can be found in these three areas. 1) The validation of the presence of toxic relationships as a sign in all those God is calling to greatness. This is the all too familiar haters who hate because you’re great. 2) The permission to end all burdensome relationships with those who cannot ascend to the same heights of success to which we have been promised. This one tickles because we all want to take the easy way out and “close the door” on the difficult task of loving the unlovable. All we need is permission from a trusted authority figure. 3) The victory measured in personal happiness and wellbeing that is so near to you and near to God’s heart for you that just the right step will bring you into its abundance and overflow. And the next step is always the topic of the day’s sermon. While this list does not represent the full extend of the tickling, it is sufficient and recognizable enough for us to consider if our ears are itching.
Paul warns the young pastor in Ephesus that these ears will turn from the truth because it is not in accordance with their own desires. Well, the truth is that our growth is measured by our enduring relationships and our ability to forego personal happiness and wellbeing for the glory of God. In his wonderful book entitled, Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson says,
A successful writer will discover a workable plot and write the same book over and over all his life to the immense satisfaction of his readers. The reader can be literary without thinking or dealing with truth. Prostitute writer.
A successful preacher can also discover a workable sermon plot and preach the same message again and again to the immense satisfaction of his listeners’ ears. The listener can be spiritual without thinking or dealing with truth. Prostitute preacher.
Before I started this post, I considered my intentions. What did I expect to accomplish? My desire is for reflection. That, be still and know, moment. My hope is that you, the reader, will listen more critically to the sermons that so appeal to you. And ask yourself, is it my heart burning from the recognition of truth, or is it my ears itching from my own desires turning me from truth. Consider, reflect, and know that I am praying for your ears.
How to Think About the Last Days (2 Tim 3:1-17)
D. A. Carson | June 3, 2007
Eric Mason: Ten Things Seminary Did Not Teach Me