Itching Ears

“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 likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” [2 Timothy 4:3-4].

In the course of our daily lives, we’re often faced with circumstances that require us to determine particular courses of action to solve problems.  When such decisions are not obvious, we usually seek the counsel of others who, we believe, have the knowledge and experience to help us make good and right decisions.

We seldom realize how often we engage in this process.  For example, you drop your car off for its annual inspection.  Later in the day, you get “the call” and learn that “our mechanic recommends a new exhaust, rear brakes and ball joints.”  Do you take the advice or not?  It’s decision time.  What do you do?

There are people with experience in virtually every area of life. The internet is loaded with endless links to names, places, agencies and companies that specialize in sharing their expertise, eager to tell you how to solve any problem and fix most anything (of course, for a price). With the accumulated knowledge of an endless number of experts, consultants, and professional advisors these days, we should, theoretically, be making good decisions and choosing right courses of action all the time, in everything.  Why, then, does it appear our world is such a mess, that our society is in a state of turmoil, and that we’re not the happiest, most well-adjusted mentally, emotionally and financially stable and utterly content people on the face of the earth?

In these “ultimate” questions, suddenly the experts are silent. Social scientists and academia have few viable answers. Historians can review the past and try to predict the future, but they can’t alter it’s course. Perhaps, like the Magi, we should look to the stars for guidance and let horoscopes inform our decision-making.  But why don’t we ever see the headline, “Psychic wins lottery”?  Then we have government legislators who, at our expense and presumably in our interest, try to answer “ultimate questions” by adopting more laws to enforce order, punish wrong-doing, impose justice, and protect our rights to be happy, secure, content and well-adjusted, even though we’re not.

The only explanation for our modern turmoil is the most ancient one—that nasty little three-letter word that seems more offensive, revolting, judgmental and obscene these days than any four-letter word.  Dare I utter it—SIN!  Since Adam and Eve started the ball rolling, humanity has continuously been plagued by it.

Sin (amartia in Greek) literally means “missing the mark” and represents the myriad ways we fall short in living the abundant life for which we were created by God.  (G.O.D.—another three-letter word that seems increasingly offensive, revolting, judgmental and intolerant these days!).  In our society, faith and religious belief are increasingly consigned to the same playing field as everything else: it’s a matter of private choice, individual preference, a personal decision. Contrary to the approach we take to solve problems and fix things, in the realm of faith we don’t necessarily want “sound teaching.” Our ears itch for that which suits our own likings (see 2 Timothy).

When God becomes a matter of private choice and personal preference, it naturally follows that disobedience to God—sin—becomes likewise; it’s “in the eyes of the beholder.” It’s because we’ve sidelined God from the experience of daily life that we no longer seem capable of understanding the consequences of disobedience to Him and—here’s the point—why we make bad decisions and choose wrong courses of action. We have, in effect, created gods of ourselves!

In situations of daily life, there are consequences to all decisions and actions. If we don’t put essential brakes on our cars, don’t follow our doctors’ orders, don’t rely on the knowledge of trusted experts and follow the recommendations of those with considerably more wisdom and experience than we possess, what will happen?  God does not call everyone to flee to the desert to live like hermits, battling our demons alone.  In Luke 19, Jesus didn’t tell Zacchaeus (the “vertically-challenged, government-enhancement officer”) to quit being a tax-collector; rather, He inspires him to be an honest one, to make good decisions rather than abusing his position by cheating people.  And it’s when Zacchaeus makes that commitment that Jesus says: “Today, salvation has come to this house.”

Whose advice should we follow in making the really important decisions in life? Whose expertise is paramount?  Whose counsel is above reproach?  Whose wisdom is far beyond the wisdom of this world?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only healing balm for itching ears! And His Holy Church, with thousands of years of accumulated experience (Holy Tradition!) stands ever-ready to apply it!