Guest Posts

Guest Post: Itching Ears

Since I’ve had to temporarily cut back on blogging I’ve asked some friends to contribute guest posts. If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at, and let’s chat about it.michael coughlin itching ears

Itching Ears
by Michael Coughlin

Itching ears abound in 2016. If you are reading this blog, you likely value discernment to a great deal. Consider a section of Scripture such as 2 Timothy 4:3-4:

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.

What we see here is the contrast between those who will desire sound teaching and those who will not. False teachers will be propped up by people with ‘itching ears’ to satisfy their own lusts.

The picture painted is striking. As I write this, I am imagining if my ears were itchy how I’d be unable to avoid scratching them. In fact, just thinking about it made my ear tingle, and I had to satisfy the itch! The analogy extends to other activities as well. There is a nearly unavoidable response by unregenerate man to his or her lust to attempt to satisfy those passions. The only mode of satisfaction which must be avoided is that of repentance toward sin and faith in Christ. Anything else goes.

In comes your friendly neighborhood spiritual leader/false teacher. You know the type. He or she is likable in some important way, speaking in a way which boosts self-esteems, smiling a lot, and using the word “God” or the phrase “God’s Word” like they were called to it! This false teacher may even proclaim the name of Jesus unashamedly. These folks are like a fingernail on the itch…they possess exactly what is needed to temporarily satisfy the longing!

So, good, discerning people like you and I investigate them. We watch a few sermons, read some of their websites or publications, and we write a post on a blog warning the brethren of the insidiousness of the false teacher. Maybe we throw out a tweet or two reminding people we love that this teacher will lead them away from God. Who knows, a Facebook group could ensue…and even be warranted. We use phrases like, “love rejoices in truth!” And we really believe that and mean it.

But I have noticed something which occurs once in a while which I think is ungodly and detracts from our real message. It seems to occur in media where shorter quips are thrown out, like Twitter, but can happen everywhere. Now I’m going to say something that to some people will be difficult to swallow:

Not every time a bad or false teacher says something are they wrong.

Yes, you read that right. Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Benny Hinn and Paula White are all right sometimes. Each of the examples above are folks who, made in God’s image, cannot help but agree with at least some things God has said. Just like the atheist who actually lives according to God’s precepts which are written on his heart…these people have an understanding of some of the things of God. Think about it…when they actually do quote Scripture they are saying something true.

I know, I know…”but they twist it,” you say! Yes, often they do. But not EVERY TIME, to be sure. The trend that most concerns me is the trend I see which is to take a single sentence or two out of the context that was given and absolutely lambaste a false teacher for their heretical beliefs. If anyone did that with the theologians you like and I look up to as well, we’d be annoyed. Good men (including Jesus, John, Paul) have made statements that, out of the context the statement was uttered, would be terribly evil or at least inane.

How many times has someone reminded you Jesus said “Judge not?” It would be easy to make a case for sinless perfection being taught by the Apostle John from 1 John, if you take a few verses out of context. And Paul? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the ‘Paul was a misogynist’ argument based on a handful of instructions concerning women. And honestly, I can see how it would sound like it out of context.

My point is this – we ought to give the most ardent false teacher the same treatment as we give the Bible and good teachers in regard to judging the things they say in context. Not because they deserve it, but because it is the right thing to do. When we attack something that someone didn’t exactly say, we commit an error which is easily refuted by those who are being led astray by these folks, and we come out looking like the fools who can’t even be honest about what the person we are attacking really meant.

We owe it to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ to honestly present and assess opposing teachings to His wonderful doctrines. It is scholarly to make cases for biblical teaching against the best possible arguments against it. It is immature and dishonest to mischaracterize your opposition’s argument, and no honor is given to God in that process.

Application: So what do we do with this knowledge? Commit with me to ensure that you will treat false teachers’ statements like we would treat our favorite preacher’s statement, evaluating them in context. It may take a little effort, but it will be worth it. Most of the world’s false teachers say enough wicked, contradictory-to-Scripture things that you don’t have to reach too hard to find something to expose them for what they are!

Michael Coughlin is a street evangelist from Ohio. He and his wife, Erin have 5 children. You can find him on Twitter, at his blog, or on Sermon Audio.