“Itching Ears”: Who’s Voice are You Listening To?–By Dean Marini
It was a dark and stormy night. Only moments before, we had just barely escaped a passing tornado. My Marine Corps Reserve battalion was training in a reclaimed strip mine, and I had been on raiding patrols that night. Finally at around 4 am, we were allowed to return to our company position—wet, cold and tired. As we settled in however, my platoon commander informed us that the last part of the exercise would be an attack. So, for the next hour we laid in the pouring rain awaiting an assault.
By the time “Mike company” found us and began their attack, I was in a foul mood. In my frustration at the futility of this exercise I asked myself, “What is the one thing everyone wants to hear right now?” I knew the quicker this exercise ended, the quicker we’d be out of the rain, and everyone wanted that. In my best Marine voice I began to shout, “Mike Company! Company formation on the road!” As I shouted this, my platoon commander and platoon sergeant began to question what I was doing. “Just watch, sir,” I said. And soon after some of my men began shouting the order as well…
The darkness, rain and confusion were all aiding in the effectiveness of my master plan. The mere fact that everyone wanted this exercise to end was playing very well into Mike Company’s “itching ears.” They wanted to hear that order so badly that, when they did, and without questioning, they stopped mid-assault and ran to the nearby road with all the return buses.
To be honest, I still laugh at the memory. Their furious Company Commander shouting for them to “Get back in line! You’ve been duped!” while the exercise evaluator, trying to hide his laughter, speedily jotted his notes in his logbook. Sigh. This would become the stuff of legend around our Company.
As I’ve shared this story over the years, the question I hear most often is, “How did that work anyways?” And the answer is always the same, and it’s twofold. First, the order I delivered was pleasing to the inner desires of the recipients. And second, the way it was delivered held an air of authority. It was perfectly pleasing to “itching ears.”
This story could also serve as a cautionary tale…
2 Timothy 4:3 warns us, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” More and more, people let their own agenda’s and political leanings determine the source of all their news and information. But Paul strictly warns against this. He warns us to not let our culture, desires and lifestyle choices to determine the teaching we believe. Instead, we are to seek scripturally grounded and biblically accurate teaching — even when it’s not exactly what we want to hear. After all, the true teachings of Christ will oftentimes challenge and correct us.
Jesus allows us to come as we are, absolutely, but then He tells us to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Paul calls us to be transformed, wherein the effects of our true encounter with Christ can visibly be seen by all. Paul experienced this firsthand on the road to Damascus (Luke 19).
Today, perhaps more than ever, we are to heed these warnings. We are called to search for, listen to, and believe sound doctrine and teaching. Don’t allow yourself to become so enamored by a person’s style and charisma for example, that you don’t listen to what’s actually being taught. Where we worship and the teachings we listen to must be God-led, Spirit-fed, and biblically aligned. In other words, it should challenge your heart, not tickle your ears.
“You will know them by their fruits [of the Spirit]” (Matthew 7:16).
So the next time you have “itching ears”, don’t just take someone’s word for it. Instead, test all teaching. Hold it up to the infallible Word and Spirit of God and then … you are sure to hear the divine Truth.
Written by Dean Marini