Our family loves dogs, but some would say we are not very good at making our dog follow the rules. I am told that you aren’t supposed to give dogs “people food,” and we generally avoid this indulgence. But once in a while, in a moment of weakness, an unmentioned family member will give our dog a treat. The person who does this has earned the name “Weak Link,” for obvious reasons. Our dog is highly motivated by food and has learned how to work the system. She will ignore everyone else and follow the “Weak Link” around the house in order to get what she wants. She knows that the other family members won’t indulge her bad doggy manners, so she ignores them. But she knows how to act very cute and beg in order to get what she wants from me.
I thought of this while reading from 2 Timothy 4 this morning. After exhorting Timothy to preach the word (v. 2), Paul says “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching , but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” (4:3) People who don’t want to hear the truth won’t stop going to church or listening altogether. They have passions and desires that must be satisfied. So they will act like my dog and seek out teachers and churches who will scratch their itching ears. And what do they want? What is the standard criteria for deciding which teachers to listen to? It is their passions (v. 3b).
Evidently there were people in the church who had a set of sinful desires and attractions, and instead of indulging these desires, the teaching of the apostles (called “sound teaching”) confronted them and called them to repentance. Jesus routinely taught that many of the things we naturally desire are violations of God’s law, are bad for us, and end up becoming substitutes for God himself (Matt 5:21-30 & 6:24-33). These people put up with the truth for a while, but eventually act just like my dog. They ignore anyone who won’t tell them what they want to hear.
One of the lessons for us is to beware of choosing a church, podcast, blog, etc. based on our desires. Don’t choose teachers who refuse to confront your darker appetites. Especially watch out for the ones that are willing to encourage or normalize the passions and desires that are condemned in scripture. Beware of anyone that that tells you that Jesus wants you to be happy indulging greed, hatred, lust, envy, covetousness, or pride.
By Pastor Matt Troupe