Tickle My Ears

We modern American Christians have a problem.

I’ve been a victim of this problem but I’ve also exploited it to suit my own ends.

Warning: Don’t read any further if you’ll be scandalized to know that I’m a sinner – not just in theory but also in practice. I’m one of those Christians who need Jesus.

Here’s the problem, in a scriptural nutshell: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4

As prophesied, on any number of important lifestyle issues, American believers can find a church, book, blog or website, that will teach whatever it is we’d like to hear.

Or, faced with conflicting teaching, rather than wrestle through complex issues, we just comfort ourselves with the false notion that it doesn’t matter what we believe about these things, much less what we practice.

In the war against sin, this lie is the enemy’s smart bomb, wildly effective at turning a temptation into a flirtation into pure adulteration of God’s plan for our lives.

For example, I’ve heard so many conflicting teachings on tithing or what we should give financially, I’ve let the differences feed my natural bent toward greed and stinginess with God. I’m usually open-handed with Him regarding time, talents, attention, and material resources but when it comes to parting with cash, you’d think I was giving up my last kidney.

I read the Bible and see what it says on the topic but when I hear a sermon that takes that scripture and turns it just so that I catch a glimpse of a loophole, (you know, if God loves a cheerful giver and I’m not feeling cheerful that day, well . . . maybe I should respect THAT scripture and not give),that day’s offering is just as likely to slip back into my wallet as into the collection plate.

Not a proud admission but true.

This week, as I heard my current pastor offer plain, well-informed, compassionate teaching on the issue of giving, I resolved to close the door on the temptation to turn aside from my understanding of what the Bible says. I asked God to help me choose obedience on a consistent basis in the area of my finances. When stinginess surfaces, it’s a sign to me that I’m in danger of letting my love of God grow cold.

On most issues, if we’re looking, we can find a church or teacher that will allow us to hold close our cherished sin. There are churches that tolerate almost any sexual practice or marital situation. Churches that encourage us to hold onto racial prejudice or hatred. Churches that teach women to be completely silent and churches that say women have the inside scoop on God and should assume all leadership. Churches that ignore the poor and exalt the rich. Some that proclaim peace and others that defend war.

Niche doctrines are de rigueur and if we’re tempted, rather than struggle, we often just shop for the boutique that fits our beliefs.

This is not only unhealthy for the body of Christ as a whole but it’s dangerous for us as individuals. Ignoring the clear commands of Christ as taught in scripture is a sure way to shipwreck our faith. Refusing to wrestle through the tough issues is just lazy faith.
This isn’t an easy thing. Some pastors and teachers are, themselves, deceived. Others are masters at tickling our ears with precisely what we want to hear utilizing a smoke-and-mirrors approach to Biblical scholarship. Like the Great and Wonderful Oz, it behooves us to take a peek behind their curtains. Some just honestly differ in their interpretation of a specific passage.

Just because it’s not easy, though, we’re not excused from working through the tough issues to the best of our abilities and striving to obey what we know is true.

Seek the truth always. Don’t settle for hearing what you want to hear. Read and study God’s word, prayerfully, for yourself.

Find teachers who know what the Bible says and can clearly explain in plain talk what it means. Be wary of those who skip passages, tell you that their work is based on “new scholarship,” or that portions of the Bible are outdated or open to wide interpretation. Discuss challenging scriptures with trusted, mature believing friends.

Always invite God into the process. Pray. Meditate. Obey what you do know. Much of the Bible is clear and obeying what we do understand often leads to a deeper understanding of what we don’t.

Are your ear itching to hear what they want? Are you interested in being tickled into complacency in regards to sin?

One thing I know: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:7-8

Jesus will guide your search but not if you’re always looking for the loophole, not the Lord. Trust me on this one. I speak from personal experience.

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    The Conversation

  1. Hallelujah! This post was just like meeting at the elevator, Lori. Guess you and God are talking to me today. I’d better listen and do. Had just reflected on the James verse a few minutes earlier. Wanting to be close to God involves our engagement–wash hands (stop sinning, and purify hearts–stop being double-minded)in whatever area is your temptation. Your usual great insight.

  2. I miss our elevator meetings, Marcia. Wasn’t sure about exposing my heart in this post but if it meant we were able to meet, then it’s good.