Sermons That Itch

Derek Ouellette —  January 4, 2010

I read an article recently by Trevin Wax in Christianity Today that offered convicting insights into 2 Tim 2:3-4:

For 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 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. – 2 Tim 2:3-4

Trevin writes:

Preaching that tickles the ears. We nod our heads in agreement and pray …

Lord, deliver us from the liberals who don’t believe anything and don’t preach the truth.

Lord, deliver us from those who give good advice and moral platitudes without the Good News of individual salvation.

Lord, deliver us from the stand-up comics who fill stadiums with ear-tickling, side-splitting sermons that are all about us and not about God.

Then, we sit back on Sunday mornings with a smile, satisfied in our assurance that our ears don’t itch.

But have we escaped the temptation of gathering pastors and teachers around us who will tickle our ears? Paul says that people will surround themselves with teachers who “suit their own passions”:

  • Calvinist’s like preachers who will preach against Arminians.
  • Protestants like preachers who will preach against Catholics.
  • We all like preachers who preach against alcoholics.
  • Evangelicals like preachers who will bash “gays” and “lesbians”.
  • Conservatives like preachers who will preach against the errors of Liberalism.

Jesus tells a story of a Pharisee who prays, “thank you Lord that I am not like that Tax Collector”. As we love to hear and shout a hearty “amen” to what we find wrong with everyone else and all of their theologies, have we become the person who prays, “thank you Lord that I am not like that Pharisee”? Or thank you Lord that I am not like that Church down the street.

Ironically, the very message that is supposed to cut us low, the message of the Cross, can be delivered in such a way that people walk out of the sanctuary patting themselves on the back. Thank God I’m not like those people! – Trevin Wax

We have become a people – most all of us I suspect – who surround ourselves with preachers and teachers who tickle our ears, who fancy our passions and who tell us exactly what we want to hear.

And if they don’t, we find someone who will. We move to the Church down the street.

I have left church on more occasions then I’d like to admit, thanking my pastor for delivering a sermon that agrees with my theology (that itches my ear); but how often have I thanked him for delivering a sermon that brought conviction and humility to my soul?

(If you are interested you can find the whole article here)

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Jose HC

    Hi Derek,
    I do agree with you… except for the fact that I believe that the tickling goes far beyond simple denominational issues. In fact the reason we are tickled is because there are few pulpits out there who truly preach against sin. Instead we waste our time with feel-good sermons… Instead of hearing about the envy, bitterness, greed or even worldliness in our hearts we waste our time thinking and hearing about why we are all better than the ‘other’ folks (whoever the ‘other’ may be).

    If we begin to compare ourselves against Jesus then the pettiness will begin to disappear and we will have Christians of character and conviction that will make and mark a difference. Christians who will attract a fallen world to Jesus because we truly raise Jesus above all else.

    Press on,

  • Derek Ouellette

    Hi Jose, thanks for the comment!

    You are absolutely correct! (110%)

    This post was emphasis off-set, meaning there was less discussion (emphasis) about feel good sermons and more discussion (emphasis) on doctrine/sin (i.e. alcoholics, practicing homosexuals,Catholic/Protestant, Calvinism/Arminian etc). This was purposeful.

    That those who like feel good sermons the prosperity gospel and the such are representative of itiching ears is common knowledge and has been spoken about to death.

    What struck me about the post was how there are other things the make us (me) culpable for itchy ear syndrom.

    Eg. Some people love sermons that preach against sin: Adultery, Drunkedness, practicing homosexuality, and the such. They love what their pastor preachers on all of these things until he talks about the sin of pride, of finger pointing and the such.

    This imaginary person who likes it preachers who preach against adultery and who attends that church every week so long as the more subtle sins are ignored, that person has itching ears syndrom. The some goes for doctrine and the such.

    As I think about it… I think everyone has had itching ears syndrom from time to time.

    Your comment, mine, they are two sides of the same coin I think.

    Thanks again.