What does Paul mean by the term “itching ears”?  

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2 Timothy 4:3 

In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers” (2 Timothy 4:3). In this passage, the apostle was speaking of the fall away when people refuse to hear the truth that was soon to arise in the church, and which would continue to endanger it until the second advent of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; 1 Timothy 4:1–3; 2 Timothy 3:1–5). 

Itching ears 

The term “itching ears” refers not to the teachers, but to those who “will not endure sound doctrine.” Because of their corrupted “lusts” these unconverted hearers “itch” for vain interpretations of Scripture that satisfy their personal “desires.” They are interested only in those passages of Bible that can promise them favor and peace. They ignore the strong messages of “sound doctrine,” which penetrates into their hearts and lead them to repentance (John 6:60, 66).  

Sound doctrine 

Truth that is revealed in “sound doctrine” (v. 3) does not honor man. Rather, it reveals his corrupted state and shows his shameful end apart from the grace of God. It reveals the nature of God and His plan of salvation. When a person is willing to listen and obey the “sound doctrine” this will bring a change in his life, a total transformation of his interests and goals. Some false teachers even when making use of the Bible, make up their own doctrinal beliefs, which matches with their personal desires. They mix Biblical words with man-made teachings and thus it becomes more deceptive to the hearers. 

Messages of peace 

Those who possess “itching ears” want to hear messages of “Peace, peace . . . when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).  By their smooth teachings the faithless teachers lull the sinners into a false state of security. These teachers should warn of God’s wrath against sin and the need for repentance, but instead they assert there is nothing to fear (Ezekiel 13:22). By so doing, they are resounding the satanic lie first spoken by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). They assure their congregations of safety saying, as it were, “To morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isaiah 56:12). 

Modern liberal theology 

The messages of peace and safety exist today in the Christian churches. they reflect the new and liberal theology that teaches cheap grace which saves people even when they continue to live in sin. These messages include the prosperity gospel that claims that God merely desires His children to be healthy, wealthy, and successful on this earth with no regard to victory over sin and a life of holiness.

In addition, there are the modern secular humanistic preachers that present the concept that truth is relative. Purged of Biblical absolutes, these preachers put man at the center of all things instead of God. Proponents of these views claim that Jesus came to deliver man from the absolutes of the law. But Jesus taught the necessity of loving obedience. He said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love…” (John 15:10, 11). And He promised the obedient abundant life (John 10:10). Believing the devil’s lies of disobedience brings pain, deprives people of true fulfillment, and finally leads them to eternal death (Romans 6:23). 

The cure for itching ears 

The cure for itching ears for the listeners is their submission to God’s Words. And the duty of minsters is to “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).  Christ preached the truths of the Scriptures and was not interested in pleasing the people but rather in transforming them into His holy image (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4). And following His example, Paul preached, “the truth plainly” (2 Corinthians 4:2). In like manner, ministers today should preach the sound doctrine instead of fanciful theories or sensational suppositions designed to gratify the listeners.

In His service, 

BibleAsk Team 

 

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