“No educated man can afford to be ignorant of the Bible.”
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: 2 Timothy 4:2-5
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with strong 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge the duties of your ministry.
Hearing what we want to hear
Whenever I turn on the television these days, I am struck by how very differently the various channels of news media report on the same events depending on the political persuasion of their ownership, management, or sponsorship. Particular details are glossed over or omitted entirely; actual events are depicted in ways that support the views of one party over the other. People tend to listen to the broadcast channels whose “spin” is most in line with their own political views, rejecting anything that contradicts or conflicts with what they expect or want to hear, regardless of how close to or far from the actual truth of the situation.
It sounds like the same kinds of things were occurring in Paul’s day. In these verses, he instructs Timothy to “preach the Word in season and out of season,” but to be prepared for his message to meet with some resistance. He warns his young colleague that, rather than follow the potentially corrective advice presented by “strong doctrine,” people will surround themselves with others who cater to their whims and wishes by telling them what they want to hear. The application for us in the present day is to “be aware” of societal, political, and cultural influences that have the potential to color our judgment and to “beware” of forces that can turn us away from truth.
How to “be aware” so that we can “beware”? First, we should examine our own hearts to see if we are allowing ourselves to consider and respond only to what we want to hear, those things that fit with our particular way of looking at things regardless of whether or not they are corroborated by fact. Psalm 129:23-24 says, “Search me O God and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” This can be applied to our interactions with the secular world as well as with the sacred.
It is also important to examine the motives behind our beliefs. Selfishness and self-interest have always been humankind’s natural bent; this has been clear ever since the Garden of Eden. If our position of relative privilege fosters in us views that tend to favor people of a particular socio-economic level, if we ascribe to certain generalizations about those of other races, genders, or creeds, if we refuse to extend the courtesy of listening to what those who disagree with us have to say, perhaps it is time to consider whether arrogance might be knocking on our door or is already sitting in our living room.
We also need to be aware of when and how we are in danger of straying from what Paul calls “doing the work.” The drama of our turbulent present can tempt us to lose our focus (and our temper), in which case we need the same encouragement that Paul gave to Timothy: “keep your head in all situations.” Failing to do so puts in jeopardy our effectiveness in “discharging the duties of our ministry.” If we are aware of our own proclivity to dismiss ideas out-of-hand that may threaten to convict us because they contradict our carefully-guarded stereotypes, then we need to ask God to make us more open to seeing others as worthy recipients of his grace.
Keep us focused on You - Your words, Your ways, Your will in our lives. Continue to teach us how to extend the grace You have so graciously given to those around us.