Tickle My Ears, Tell Me What I Like to Hear

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.  —2 Tim. 4:3

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. —2 Tim. 4:3

Oftentimes when someone talks about people going to certain churches to have their ears tickled or who have ‘itching ears’, they describe them as people who want to hear only ‘feel good’ messages, teachings and sermons that lack Biblical doctrine. While that may be true, those who love hard messages can also be guilty of having itching ears.

A careful reading of both 2 Timothy 3 and 4 reveals it is not merely talking about soft and fluffy feel good messages, but any teaching that is unsound, especially concerning salvation, and that includes teaching man-made rules, also known as the traditions of men or traditions of the elders, as though they were commandments from God. Fluffy teachings can tickle our ears if we don’t like being told what to do. Hard messages can tickle our ears if we, not only like to live by a strict set of rules that make us feel like elite Christians, but like telling others how they should live, too. Oh sure, both fluffy messages and hard ones may contain some truth, but as a Yiddish proverb says, “A half truth is a whole lie,” and can lead people astray. Either way, if we tend to heap unto ourselves teachers who tickle our ears so we feel better about ourselves, we may want to consider if what we’re listening to and who we follow are sound in doctrine.

About Rene Yoshi

Just a transplanted Okinawan-French Southern girl with a wee bit o' Irish, sharing photography and what I'm learning about spiritual things, including putting off legalism and religious traditions, and embracing God's matchless love, tender mercy, and amazing grace! View all posts by Rene Yoshi

16 responses to “Tickle My Ears, Tell Me What I Like to Hear

  • Heidi Viars

    sound doctrine is so important … like a strong foundation – without it’s easy to be tossed about …. thank you for that great reminder today, Rene!

    • Rene Yoshi

      I agree, and I realize the weight of responsibility whenever I attempt to teach or express what I believe the Bible says. I know I’ve been guilty of teaching unsound doctrine due to legalism, and I know the Lord is merciful and gracious, but I continually ask the Holy Spirit for insight in order to avoid saying anything false. Thank you, Heidi! ((hug))

  • Scott

    I am amazed and greatly disturbed/angered at what passes for ‘sound teaching’ nowadays. Some people desire to be entertained, others like the ‘feel good’ blather, others want to be told their particular denomination or credd is best while others are merely happy being part of the 11 o’clock “Nod to God” crowd. So many of us are all to eager to press others into our own theological mold while others are ready to damn anyone who doesn’t believe precisely as they! And, sadly, there are always the self-styled (and appointed) “preachers” all too willing to feed these immature believers whatever suffices to gain recognition, provide a soapbox or make some point they believe ‘exclusive’. May the Lord have mercy on those pitiable churchgoers who allow themselves to be ‘tickled’ at the expense of studying on their own. And may the Lord deal appropriately with those “preachers” who insist on adding their own ‘2-cents’ to what the Holy Spirit has given us in His Word.

  • optimisticgladness

    That’s some good stuff right there! Love the yiddish proverb too. Gonna tuck that one in my memory banks.

  • Unshakable Hope

    Excellent, Rene!
    It’s so true that the verse you cited is often used by legalistic churches as a hammer to beat over the head of so-called grace-based churches. But, as you said, this verse might apply to both of them.

    • Rene Yoshi

      Yes! I’ll take a truly grace-based church over one that leans toward legalism. A truly grace-based church does not disregard sin and take grace for granted but rather focuses on the One who gives grace. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “”Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” Likewise, a legalist’s focus is also more on the commandments of God rather than God Himself, and behavior more than relationship, and even if they give lip service to the grace of God, the words that flow unconsciously from their lips reveal a heart of faith based on their own works, which is just another face of cheap grace. I know, because I’ve been there. Thank you, Bill! 🙂

  • Tom Malone

    I somewhat get what you are coming from. There are churches out there that are legalistic, no question, but I don’t agree that we should disregard God’s commandments and just focus on him. He gave is those commands for a reason. Like to obey him in everything that you are. If you take the stand that I have Christian liberty and we are In the age of grace, then you have to understand what true Christian liberty is. It is not something that we just throw out there and do something for the flesh. The bible says that should I live in sin so that grace can much more abound? Nay! It is wrong to live that way. We have commands for a reason. Now most of them don’t pertain to salvation. Which is where most people who are -grace centered- think that if a preacher is preaching a command from the word of God and I do not believe in it then they are being legalistic. Legalism is adding works to salvation. I don’t know many “new evangelicals” that use legalism correctly. The point I m trying to get across is that, yes, there are people who are legalistic, but just because a preacher preaches hard, bible- based doctrine and the commandments of The Lord should not automatically be labeled a legalistic by “new Evangelicals.”

    • Rene Yoshi

      I agree, Tom Malone. I apologize for not being clearer and for causing a misunderstanding. It was more of a focus on commandments of God rather than God Himself that I meant to stress. I don’t think we should disregard God’s commandments and just focus on Him either. I agree, too, that preachers who preach hard, Bible-based doctrine and the commandments of the Lord should not automatically be labeled a legalist. It is those who tend to preach in such a way as to cause people to feel like obeying those commands is the way to be right with God. We are already right with Him if we accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice as a substitute for our sin, and we continue being made right with Him through His work of sanctification. Our love and gratitude and the Spirit within should spur us on to do good works. As Paul said, “Faith without works is dead.” Thank you for clarifying the issue! 🙂

  • Especially Made

    So important for us to be like the Bereans, who examined the Word to make sure what they were taught was the truth.

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