Delighting Their Ears. Fifth, the apostle describes these false Christians as “having itching ears” (v. 3, ESV, KJV, ASV, RSV). The term, “itching” (Gk. knetho), literally means, “to scratch.”296 Here, the present passive/middle participle paints a vivid picture. The present middle/passive pertains to the subject as performing a repeated action on itself. Thus, these apostates are being tickled themselves—by things that they want to hear. They have their ears scratched not just once, but several times, regularly and repeatedly. Having itching ears and then being tickled by false teachers, they shall listen to more and more false teachers.
People will itch only for preachers who tickle their own selfish desires. These speakers will tell them what they want to hear; but not what God wants them to heed. God’s Word is no longer their criterion for judging a preacher or teacher. Instead, their standard is now their own subjective desires. Stott adds, “Worse . . . they first decide what they want to hear and then select teachers who will oblige by toeing their line.”297 In other words, when they hear a message, they will not judge whether it is true or not according to Scripture. Rather, they will see if they like it or not. Thus, people will leave the old lighthouse of biblical faith to ride the latest spiritual wave. The consequence, however, is to hit the rocks of spiritual destruction (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
In these days of apostasy, people choose what they want to believe. They follow preachers who tell them what they like to hear. Like the old beer commercial however, false teachings tickle the throat, but are less filling. In their desire to eat the sweet dessert of positive blessings, people skip the real meat of God’s Word. The result is a shallow faith. To fill this shallow kind of faith, people will continually seek high voltage experiences. It is a vicious cycle.
296 Strong, Strong’s Greek Dictionary in Power Bible CD.
297 Stott, 2 Timothy, 111.