Paul writes in Timothy, "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.” Another translation translates sound teaching as “healthy doctrine.”
A time is coming when people will not endure healthy doctrine.
There’s a doctrine, or teaching, that is healthy. And then there’s one that isn’t healthy. There’s the stuff that’s good for you and feeds your soul. And there’s the stuff that just makes you fat, lazy, and on the verge of a heart attack.
You are what you eat.
This is easily understood when we talk about our food. There’s certain foods that are good for you and need to be a part of a well-balanced diet. There’s other food that isn’t as good for you but won’t necessarily kill you unless you eat too much of it. And then there’s junk food which really has no nutritional value, but it sure tastes good. And then of course, there’s food that’s poisonous and will absolutely kill you.
Teaching should be considered the same way.
Healthy doctrine is simple; it’s correct teaching. This is what Paul is referring to when he suggests that people “will not endure sound teaching.” Paul understands that there is a time when people aren’t going to find the healthy stuff very appealing; it may be exactly what people need for life, but they won’t have the appetite for it.
Our people need a healthy dose of the law, they need to be reminded what the will of God looks like. And they need the life-giving Gospel, which puts their hope in the finished work of Christ. People need the true and healthy teachings of the Scriptures because they keep us healthy as we fulfill our callings as believers, as workers, and as family members.
Some food isn’t really healthy, but it isn’t going to kill you either. You can eat a burger and it’s not awful, but if you only eat burgers it will kill you. Some teachings are like this.
You go to that conference and learn from the rockstar pastor who is selling all kinds of books. His teachings might not be in complete agreement with yours. Too much buying into everything he says will probably eat away at your soul, but enjoying the good teaching of another pastor from another tribe is sometimes helpful. It will help you think in a way you haven’t before and it will challenge you think about why you believe what you believe.
So the healthy needs to be a part of your diet, the less healthy food will be part of your diet but cautiously. And then there’s junk food. We all love the junk food, but know that we have to be careful. The junk food is fun, but it is bad for us.
I could easily eat my sons entire bag of Halloween candy, and I will eat a lot of it. But it’s definitely not good for me.
Some teaching is like this. It’s not only less than healthy, it’s definitely bad for you. Because it’s junk food and not poison, it’s not completely off limits… but you have to know what works for you. If one candy bar will send you spiraling towards a heart attack, then you need to stay away from even one. But if a Snickers once and a while isn’t a big deal, then go for it.
I’d compare the junk food in doctrine to the teachings that you know are not only in disagreement, but the ones that disagree significantly with you. But even though they disagree, you find something fascinating or compelling about them that makes you want to listen every know and then.
Poison kills. A little bit of poison will kill you, a lot of poison will kill you. So if we are talking food, I don’t find many people that are suggesting that we are just cautious to only eat poisonous foods once a year. We don’t ever eat poisonous food… because we will die no matter how healthy we were.
Certain doctrine is poisonous. There are teachings that are wrong and dangerous and that we should not give ourselves to. There are false teachers that disguise themselves and teach people what they want to hear all the while feeding them poison on a silver platter.
The poison is what we must absolutely avoid at all costs. As pastors and preachers, we might need to study and learn the poison so we can protect our people from it, but we must also do whatever we can to make sure people know how to discern and avoid the poison.