Yesterday I included the lyrics to a song that addressed the concept of itching ears, as described in 2 Timothy 3:4. This idea of people being told what they want to hear and being attracted to churches by fine words is not limited to churches that have been converted to discos. Those of us who preach and teach must be alert and constantly test what we say. We need to watch for the influence of Satan in every context. Keith Green creatively quoted the devil in one of his songs when he said, “I put some truth in every lie to tickle itching ears; you know I’m drawing people just like flies ’cause they like what they hear.”1
The message of the Gospel is vital and must not be compromised by our methods or by our words. There are plenty of high profile, celebrity preachers who preach prosperity and health to those who follow their words. Would it not be better to simply speak the words of the Bible and let those words transform the lives of the people? Isaiah 55:8-11 reads,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
God’s word will not return empty. Even when we do not fully understand His word, we can speak it and trust that it will achieve the purposes for which He sent it. If we are honest with ourselves and others, we will recognize that there is still great mystery in the words of the Bible. For example, how do we reconcile these two statements:
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) and
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Who does God reward; the evil and the good; or those who earnestly seek Him? The truth is, my itching ears want to hear that it is only those who earnestly seek God that will be rewarded. I want to hear that if I go to church, read my Bible, and pray, I will be rewarded with health and wealth. I want to believe that. I don’t want to believe that God will send His excellent rain upon the evil as well as the good. My ears are just as itchy as the next person; but, here is my commitment to myself and to others. I will seek to truly hear the word of God. I will trust that it is good and true and beneficial. Even as I struggle to understand the Bible, I will listen to the hard words as well as those that sound good to my ever itching ears.
Let us speak both of these words and trust that God will reconcile them in our lives and in this world. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. His thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways. They operate on a higher plane than our own. In the higher plane, there is no apparent contradiction between Matthew 5 and Hebrews 11. Therefore, let us speak these words of truth and trust that they will accomplish the purposes of God.
1 See https://www.keithshields.ca/2010/10/no-one-believes-in-me-anymore.html for all of the words to this song. You can even listen to the song while you read along: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt42MXX2CXg