by Tad Lindley
These days a person has to be careful. There are some folks out there who are looking to retire quickly with a personal injury lawsuit. When the Unilever Corporation (manufacturer of Q-tip cotton swabs) came out with an advertising campaign that had this slogan, “Never put anything in your ear, except for your elbow,” I knew they were worried about the personal injury angle. The fact remains though, that for many Americans, the ear is the most natural place for a Q-tip. I must admit that in times past, a rebellious heart has overtaken me, and I have wantonly ignored the warning on the Q-tip box. Carefully bracing myself against the bathroom wall (or in a doorway if I am in earthquake country), lest I fall and puncture my ear drum, I have soothed an irritating itch and removed much wax.
If you ever run out of Q-tips
The Bible tells us that there will come a day when people will find another solution for itching ears. Instead of using Q-tips, they will use preachers. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap to themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (II Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV)
In other words, the time will come when people will not be interested in truth. Instead they will look for preachers and teachers to tell them what they want to hear.
What is the least I can do and still be saved?
As people, we tend to look for the easier, softer way. We might even look for a church where the pastor will scratch our itching ears with gentle preaching that will make us feel saved. As descendants of Adam, we look for a church that is a good match for our lifestyle. We want to put ourselves out as little as possible. I hope that you see that this is a terrible mistake.
If we are living with someone and not married to them, we can find a church where that will never be addressed as sin. If we do not want to be delivered from addictions in our life, we can find a preacher that is himself addicted. There are preachers and teachers out there of every philosophy. They will tell us what we want to hear.
The word of God tells us that this is a terrible place to be. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15) That kind of teaching doesn’t soothe our itching ears; it hurts.
Not every preacher is good for itching ears. Some preachers have the nerve to stand up before the congregation and tell them what the Bible says. People sometimes get offended. They may even walk out never to return. The Bible says that this will happen: they will not endure sound doctrine.
The elbow preacher is the preacher who watches for the souls of his flock. He is the man who spends hours in prayer and preparation. When he steps before the people, he preaches from the Bible. He does not shrink from preaching, even when it is uncomfortable. His thought is for the souls of those that the Lord has entrusted to him.
What kind of preacher do you want?
If we are genuinely concerned about our salvation, we will want a preacher who is not afraid to hurt our feelings if we are not living right. Do we want a preacher that preaches a God who fits our lifestyle or do we want a preacher that preaches who God really is? Another way of looking at it is do we want a preacher who excuses sin in our lives or a preacher that sets a standard God approves of.
Good preachers are hard to find
You may live in a one church village. Perhaps you are blessed with a wonderful pastor, not every village is. The leader of the church may show up to service drunk. I realize that there have been some horrible situations in our region. Short of moving your family, I recommend confronting the situation, and crying out to the Lord in prayer for a true man of God to come to your town. We do not have to spend much time in the Bible before we realize that Jesus hears the voice of the desperate. If you ask, he will raise up a laborer for your harvest field. Not one who wants to scratch people’s ears, but one who wants to rightly divide the word of truth and lead the congregation straight into the kingdom of God.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the Bethel United Pentecostal Church.