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 Tim. 4:3-4)
When we come across these words from the apostle Paul to Timothy, we tend to see this verse as a description of our day and age. How else do we explain the elegant churches whose liberalism has overtaken their once-glorious heritage? Or the masses that fill stadiums to hear prosperity teachers tell us how good we are and how much God wants to bless us financially?
Preaching that tickles the ears. We nod our heads in agreement and pray
Lord, deliver us from the liberals who don't believe anything and don't preach the truth.
Lord, deliver us from those who give good advice and moral platitudes without the Good News of individual salvation.
Lord, deliver us from the stand-up comics who fill stadiums with ear-tickling, side-splitting sermons that are all about us and not about God.
Then, we sit back on Sunday mornings with a smile, satisfied in our assurance that our ears don't itch.
But are we deceiving ourselves? Do we truly believe we have escaped the temptation to listen to pastors who tickle our ears? Is it possible to preach harshly against certain sins and yet still be an ear-tickling preacher?
The prophet Jeremiah tells us the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. We think that if we attend a church where the pastor consistently preaches hard messages with hard truths, we will never succumb to the "itching ears" syndrome. But such is not the case. Paul tells Timothy that itching ears accumulate for themselves teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. ...