What do you make of itching ears? You find them only one place in the Bible. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around
them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
I always thought itching ears meant a phenomenon in society about which Paul needed to give Timothy a dire warning. “Watch out, young minister,” Paul might have been saying, “You’re going to see a lot of Greeks get itching ears and not want to hear solid biblical truth in your church.” The trouble with that interpretation is that society always has itching ears. Why warn Timothy about a coming time?
No, Paul is telling Timothy the time is coming when the church will have itching ears. Society will get into the church. Sound doctrine won’t satisfy believers any longer. Gospel-oriented Christians will get itching ears. I
think that time is here. It’s now. And I don’t want you to get infected with ears that itch.
Consider sound doctrine. When is the last time you read a book about sound doctrine: for example, a book about the cross, the resurrection, or the identity of Jesus. “That doesn’t sound interesting,“ you say. Why not? Do you
have itching ears?
Do you realize in the core of your being that the cross of Jesus Christ saves you from the devil’s power? Do you know the cross protects your future from an eternity in hell? Those are sound doctrines. Could you explain those to a nonbeliever (with tears in your eyes)? When you wake up at 3 am, do you assure yourself with those truths so that you can sleep soundly?
Let’s not let the devil tempt us with the idea that there’s some new fresh thing that we’re missing. That so-called truth that you don’t know yet is probably a lie, unless it reemphasizes sound doctrine and sets your heart free to trust Jesus even more. We grow by applying the truth about Christ that we know. We grow by trusting Him and standing firm on the biblical doctrines that set the heart soaring.
We affirm the truth that any student in my confirmation class could tell you — Question: What do we believe about the Bible? Answer: We believe that the Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.
If a “truth” does not in some way point to sound doctrine, it’s probably a myth. As Paul tells Timothy in the next verses, “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all
situations” (2 Timothy 4:4-5). This is why C.S. Lewis always told his audiences to read old books. Old books have truth that has stood the test of time. Old books have stood the test of itching ears that crave something new
Consider your children or your grandchildren. I wonder how well we’ve taught them the truth of the cross and the resurrection. I wonder if we have done our job giving them the categories of sin, judgment, eternity, forgiveness, and peace with God with which their minds and hearts need to grapple. Those are sound doctrines. They complement the doctrines of love and acceptance, of which we also need to keep hearing.
If we have taken a pass on teaching those solid truths to the next generations (and I have neglected it, too), that is more of a statement about my own values, about my own lack of a solid biblical conviction. I must attend to my own itching ears.
As Paul says, let’s “keep [our] head in all situations.”
Blessings to you in this season of resurrection and new life, Matt