Desiring Tickling Teachers. Fourth, “they will heap to themselves teachers” (v. 3). The NIV translates it, “they will gather around them a great number of teachers.” Yet it misses the Greek. The verb, “heap” (Gk. episoreuo), literally means, “to accumulate further, i.e., (figuratively) to seek additionally.”293 Thus, the ESV renders it more accurately, “they will accumulate for themselves teachers.” The verb form here is future indicative active. This means that these false Christians shall seek one false teacher after another.
There is a contrast here. In this due season of departure, people will not put up with sound doctrine. Yet they will put up with false teachers. They will follow not just one but many false teachers.
People in apostasy will prefer preachers who satisfy their self-centered desires, instead of the desires of God. These false teachers will not stress repentance and thus interrupt their sinful longings. They will not call attention to their sinful desires. The LORD said, “But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:22, NKJV). However, these false pastors will not bother to call people out of their sin. They will emphasize only the positive blessings of God, but not His negative demands against sin. They will teach half-truths, but not the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
Warren W. Wiersbe wrote, “A large congregation is not always a sign that he [the pastor] is preaching the truth. In fact, it may be evidence that he is tickling people’s ‘itching ears’ and giving them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.”294 These are strong, but truthful words indeed. If Wiersbe is correct, then the top ten largest churches in the world today are not always an indication that their pastors are preaching the truth.
Many today look with awe at pastors of large churches, but lose that awe with pastors of small churches. The unwritten notion is that the larger the church, the more anointed is the pastor. But we infer from Paul that in the last days, numbers do not determine the anointing of a pastor. If many shall follow pastors that tickle people, then there will be more of the larger churches than there will be the smaller ones.
Guzik writes, “The most popular preachers are not necessarily the most faithful preachers.”295 Conversely, being a popular preacher does not necessarily mean unfaithfulness to the Word. Nevertheless, being a faithful, biblical preacher in these times of apostasy will certainly not make one very popular. Yet the pastoral job is not a popularity contest, but a faithfulness challenge. God has called the biblical speaker to be faithful, not popular.
293 Strong, Strong’s Greek Dictionary in Power Bible CD.
294 Warren W. Wiersbe, “2 Timothy,” The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament (vol. 2; Quezon: Christian Growth Ministries, 2001), 254.
295 Guzik, “2 Timothy 4,” Commentaries. Cited __ Online: http://www.studylight.org/com/guz/view.cgi?book=2ti&chapter=004.