Ears Trained for Entertainment
2 Timothy 4:3
2 Timothy 4:3 (AMP)
For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold,
Today, I came across a small snippet of a T.D. Jakes sermon (dated 4/27/2014) that was floating around Facebook 3 years ago (url: https://www.facebook.com/bishopjakes/videos/10152532038178322/ ). In the minute and a half or so snippet, Bishop Jakes was discussing why the church of today no longer sees the miracles of the early church. Bishop Jakes makes the statement that it is not because God has lost His power; the church of today does not see the miracles of the early church because we have lost our focus! Today’s Christian is typically not well taught in prayer and fasting, but is instead trained for entertainment. Without the entertainment, he said, today’s church loses its focus.
However, as Bishop Jakes intimated, our focus should not be on entertainment, but on prayer and fasting! Here is an excerpt from an article on GotQuestions.org, entitled “What is the connection between prayer and fasting?” (url: https://www.gotquestions.org/prayer-fasting.html):
The first chapter of Nehemiah describes Nehemiah praying and fasting, because of his deep distress over the news that Jerusalem had been desolated. His many days of prayer were characterized by tears, fasting, confession on behalf of his people, and pleas to God for mercy. So intense was the outpouring of his concerns that it’s almost inconceivable he could “take a break” in the middle of such prayer to eat and drink. The devastation that befell Jerusalem also prompted Daniel to adopt a similar posture: “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Like Nehemiah, Daniel fasted and prayed that God would have mercy upon the people, saying, “We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws” (v. 5).
In several instances in the Old Testament, fasting is linked with intercessory prayer. David prayed and fasted over his sick child (2 Samuel 12:16), weeping before the Lord in earnest intercession (vv. 21-22). Esther urged Mordecai and the Jews to fast for her as she planned to appear before her husband the king (Esther 4:16). Clearly, fasting and petition are closely linked…
The prophetess Anna “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37). At age 84, her prayer and fasting were part of her service to the Lord in His temple as she awaited the promised Savior of Israel. Also in the New Testament, the church at Antioch was fasting in connection with their worship when the Holy Spirit spoke to them about commissioning Saul and Barnabas to the Lord’s work. At that point, they prayed and fasted, placed their hands on the two men and sent them off.
In Mark 9, Jesus casts a demon from a boy. The disciples had been unable to perform the exorcism, although they had previously been given authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7). Later, the disciples asked Jesus why they failed in their attempts to free the boy from the demon, and Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). Matthew’s account adds the phrase “and fasting” (Matthew 17:21)… Prayer is a ready weapon in the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18), and fasting helps to focus prayer and give it resolve.
While prayer may be lightly taught in church today, the discipleship teaching of personal fasting seems to be a rarity (though gaining some popularity in the beginning/end of the year for church-wide corporate fasts). However, sacrificial prayer (and especially fasting) take commitment and a willingness to put one’s own interests to the side. Many people do not want to make the sacrificial commitments required.
Another GotQuestions.org article, entitled “What does 2 Timothy 4:3 mean by itching ears?“, discusses how today’s church has moved away from wanting the Truth and is settling for something else:
The apostle Paul wrote a warning for the church: “The time will come when men 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).
The Greek word translated “itching” literally means “to itch, rub, scratch, or tickle.” To want one’s ears “tickled” is to desire massages rather than messages—sermons that charm rather than challenge, entertain rather than edify, and please rather than preach. The people Paul warns about will have, as one commentator put it, “ears which have to be continually titillated with novelties.”
“Itching ears” is a figure of speech that refers to people’s desires, felt needs, or wants. It is these desires that impel a person to believe whatever he wants to believe rather than the actual truth itself. When people have “itching ears,” they decide for themselves what is right or wrong, and they seek out others to support their notions. “Itching ears” are concerned with what feels good or comfortable, not with the truth—after all, truth is often uncomfortable. Paul’s warning is that the church would one day contain those who only opened their ears to those who would scratch their “itch.”
Those with “itching ears” only want teachers who will assure them that all is well, teachers who say, “Peace, peace . . . when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Where there is a demand for something, the suppliers are not far away. Paul says that not only will there be great demand for watered-down, personalized messages, but there will be “a great number of teachers” willing to provide such pap and steer people away from “sound doctrine.”
Evidence today of people having “itching ears” includes the popularity of messages that people are not required to change, as if repentance were outmoded; that people are basically good; that God is too loving to judge anyone; that the cross, with all its blood, is not really necessary; and that God wants His children to be healthy, wealthy, and content in this world. As people turn their backs on the truth about sin and condemnation, they disregard their need for repentance and forgiveness. And a craving for “new” and “fresher” ideas grows—even though there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10)—accompanied by a longing to feel good about who they are and where they’re going. Messages that tickle ears can fill a lot of churches, sell a lot of books, and buy a lot of time on cable tv.
Some of the early followers of Jesus complained about some of the Lord’s words: “Many of his disciples said, ʻThis is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ . . . From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:60, 66). Walking away from hard truth is easy to do.
In today’s postmodern church, we see many walking away from the hard truth. Some churches that once preached sound doctrine now teach as acceptable the very evils the Bible condemns. Some pastors are afraid to preach on certain passages of the Bible…
The church’s remedy for those who have “itching ears” is found in the same passage of 2 Timothy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). It is a solemn charge, made “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom” (verse 1). And it contains all the elements needed to combat the temptation to tickle ears: preach, correct, rebuke, and encourage. The content of preaching must be the written Word of God, and it must be preached when convenient and when inconvenient. This takes “great patience and careful instruction,” but sound doctrine is worth it.
The church’s quest to manage the comfort level of its audience must never take priority over preaching the Word. The fear of offending people’s sensibilities can never supersede the fear of offending God. Rather, the church should follow the example of the apostles: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2)…
The truth is, God is not concerned with scratching our itches but in transforming us into the image of His Son (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
Don’t settle for church hopping in trying to find a message that fits your lifestyle… Ask God to provide you a church that will push you to make the effort to ensure your lifestyle fits God’s Word and His Plan for your life! Let’s renew our commitment to God and the Truth contained in His Word. Let’s hand our lives over to God, rather than continue to keep back from God what has always already belonged to Him all along!