EDITORIAL -- Heaping Up Teachers
After exhorting Timothy to "preach the word," Paul prophesied that the time would come when brethren would not endure sound doctrine, but would "heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts" (2 Tim. 4:3). The word translated "heap" (episoreuo, Greek) meant to "accumulate in piles." Brethren's ears would itch so badly they would literally pile teacher upon teacher in order that the craving of their ears might be gratified. They would multiply teachers in order that they might hear what they wanted to hear.
Man is a strange creature. He will pay a man well to tell him a damning lie. Jeremiah said of his contemporaries, "The prophets prophesy falsely ... and my people love to have it so" (Jer. 5:31). The prophet Micah charged that men in his day also had itching ears. He said, "If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people" (Micah 2: 11). The lying false prophet would be accepted by the people as their prophet.
In Ezekiels day there were those who "hear thy words, but do them not." They praised the preacher, but ignored his message of repentance. The shepherds in Israel were to the people "as a lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice" (Ezek. 33:32). The people praised the speech-making ability of the prophet, but ignored his message. Isaiah described God's people in his day as being "lying children, children that will not hear the law of Jehovah; that say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits" (Isa. 30:9, 10). They preferred to be lied to, than to hear the saving truth of God.
When Micaiah the prophet attempted to foretell the doom of Ahab. Ahab would not hear. Ahab said of Micaiah, "Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil" (1 Kings 22:8). Ahab ordered the faithful prophet of God thrown into prison, and that he should be fed only the bread and water of affliction until he should return. However, Ahab died just as the prophet had foretold. Had Ahab listened to, the truth rather than heaping unto himself four hundred false prophets, he would not have died at Ramoth-gilead.
Lustful men always have been willing to compensate a false teacher better than one who delivers unto them cutting truth. And there always have been a large supply of hireling -teachers who will preach whatever the people want to hear, if the price is right. Balsam, the son of Beor, "loved the hire of wrong-doing" (2 Pet. 2:15; Rev. 2:14; Num. 2:2). To a false prophet, his audience is merely so much merchandise to be used to his own selfish ends. "And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2 Pet. 2:3).
There are those "doctors" of our day who will scratch the ears of lusting brethren, if the price is right. But the faithful preacher seeks the approbation of God; not of his audience. "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10)
Churches seeking an ear-scratcher may have to search through piles of teachers in order to find one that suits their fancy. Doctors who will acquiesce have proliferated until there are heaping piles of them available. But the steadfast preacher will not be moved by fear or favor of man. To God he must be true, let come what may. But the empty, soft, philosophical discourses of error soothe, while plain truth often is abrasive.
Which will it be for you? Would you prefer a sugar-coated lie, or will you insist upon hearing the truth regardless of its cutting edge? Remember Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jno. 8:32).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 43, pp. 3-4