October 13, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“All of Scripture is God-breathed and therefore useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness for the purpose of thoroughly equipping the servant of God for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3.16-17)
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around themselves a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4.3)
We all have heard of our “ears burning” which people have said to intimate somebody has been talking about them. But, have you heard of “itching ears”? Of course, we all have. “Itching ears” is a sign of infection in the ear canal. It certainly distracts us from being able to pay attention, hear efficiently and listen effectively. We also know of “itching to” anything meaning a yearning or longing for. But, who wants to yearn or long for an ear infection? According to Paul the Apostle, many in this world do and many more in the last days will. And to some degree, when it comes to considering the “end of the world,” we all long to either avoid the end by believing we can put it off until it is of no consequence to us or that we can overcome or bypass it altogether. Sadly, no one will be able to escape the “end” of time. Scripture tells us that Jesus will judge the living and the dead. In fact, it is the lead in to chapter 4 of 2 Timothy. We know from Paul’s letter to the community of faith in Christ found in Philippi that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.” What we also know is that this phrasing from a church hymn of the day speaks to the fact that such a confession will either be a praise to God or a confession of accepting the failure or refusal to praise God. Remember, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; only those who truly do the will of My Heavenly Father.” That is a pretty stout assessment and accountability! Accountability seems to be what far too many people today want to avoid. Their ears may be burning because they know people are talking about them though they may not know why. But, as Paul declares to Timothy, their ears are itching to hear what they want to hear that soothes and pleases them. According to another popular phrasing, they “want their cake and eat it, too.”
Today’s passage of scripture concerning the desire for false teachers is placed against yesterday’s reflection passage hinging on the concept of “every good work.” As mighty ones of God, we are created for and called to “good work.” Reminding us again that the biblical application of the word “good” means that which is intended by God for the welfare of all creation and the glory of God. Authentic “goodness” is not one or the other but both. In the “ears” of the world, philanthropic and charitable work is “good.” But, the Kingdom question is “Is it good enough?” Sure, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, ministering to the “captive: literally, figuratively, emotionally, sexually, etc.,” housing the homeless and a long list of causes are not only outlined in scripture but are in the mission statements of many non-profit (and some for-profit) organizations. Even the quoting from Isaiah which Jesus does as He visited His hometown synagogue in Nazareth highlights such good works but with the non-negotiable caveat of “and proclaim the acceptable day of the Lord.” This would put all the other “good” works into proper perspective as they create the environment where the good news of Jesus Christ is borne out in the witness of faith and works. While there is a purpose of helping others it is never without the intention of introducing them to the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. Perhaps the “itchy ears” are a sign of sin-fection which I mentioned yesterday. People globally and for all time have been looking for the cure of filling the emptiness which sin carves out in them. Sin tells them they are not enough. Sin tells them they cannot be good enough. Sin tells them they cannot get enough. Sin tells them they are empty even if they are full. Sin does this because sin is less concerned about the physical welfare or being of a person and focuses on the spirit of that person. Sin means to “steal, kill and destroy” the spirit of humanity so that the flesh will rot for eternity. But, sin will make you “feel good” while it happens. Is it really “good”? Is it really of God? This is what Paul alerts Timothy about in his dialogue concerning fulfilling the call of ministry that was burning in his heart and “in his ears.”
Is it burning in our hearts and ears, too? Are we doing the “good” work given to us to which we have been called since before we were conceived in the flesh by God who conceived us in His Spirit? “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord God, plans to prosper you, not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a [glorious] future.” (Jeremiah 29.11)
Father, You are good and the best that there is. Fill us to overflowing with your goodness and may the good which You intend for us to be and to do find its fulfillment in our words, thoughts and works for the welfare of others and for Your glory. AMEN.