2 Timothy 4:3-4
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Paul's description of people having "itching ears" is picturesque. The Greek word, knethomai, literally means "to itch, rub, scratch, or tickle." This figure of speech implies that they have an itch that must be scratched, or as William Barclay puts it, "they have ears which have to be continually titillated with novelties" (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, p. 202). Such people open their ears to any teacher who will relieve their particular "itch" regardless of how it measures against the truth.
The solution to this resides in proper discernment based on God's infallible Word. This judgment must be based on His whole counsel. John writes, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Christ commends the Ephesian church for this:
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars. (Revelation 2:2)
Paul says it most simply, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21).
It is our Christian duty to evaluate the "causes" we endorse. Are they truly of God, or are they itches we want scratched? Have we allowed the world to influence our thinking, or are we on solid biblical footing? Have we held our ground against Satan, or have we given in to his relentless onslaught?
Our effort now should be presenting ourselves "blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 23), for God is not concerned with scratching our itches but transforming us into the image of His Son. That is our only cause!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Scratching Our Itches