Lectionary Commentaries for October 20, 2013
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 18:1-8

Meda Stamper

The parable of the widow’s persistence is introduced as a parable about prayer and not losing heart, then moves into a story about justice, and ends with a question about faith.

It begins with the introduction of the judge who neither fears God nor respects people. The un-respected people are represented here by a widow whose relentlessness is so bothersome to the judge that she ends up receiving the justice she demands. And the un-feared God will, by the end of the parable, eclipse the judge who does not fear him.

Luke mentions a number of widows in the ministry of Jesus. From those references, we might certainly characterize them as among the vulnerable, the ones in whom Jesus takes a particular interest. Jesus recognizes that the poor widow (21:3) has given more than all the other wealthier patrons of the temple because she has given all that she has, and he condemns the scribes who “devour widows’ houses” (20:47).

But in addition to being vulnerable, widows also appear as prophetic, active, and faithful; certainly the widow who gives her last coins is not only vulnerable but also a model of faithful generosity. The first widow of the Gospel is Anna (2:37), a prophet, who spreads the good news of Jesus’ birth. Jesus in his inaugural sermon at Nazareth mentions the widow of Zarephath (4:25-6), who feeds Elijah from her meager supplies in a famine and whose son is returned to life by the prophet, an act Jesus replays in the raising of the only son of the widow of Nain (7:12).

All of these appear only in this Gospel, including the widow of our current parable, who is persistent, active, and forceful enough to get the justice she demands even from an utterly unjust judge, and who finally is, by implication, included among the chosen ones of God.

Her persistent petitioning is identified in advance (18:1) as an image of, and lesson in, prayer, about which readers of Luke have already heard a great deal. The book begins with the whole assembly of the people praying outside the temple. Jesus prays at his baptism and withdraws to pray at key points throughout his ministry and finally at the Mount of Olives. He instructs his followers to pray for those who abuse them.

When the disciples ask him to teach them to pray, he introduces the Lord’s Prayer (11:1-13). There as here he also encourages them to be persistent and to trust in God’s parental faithfulness, and the teaching ends with Jesus’ assurance that their heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

We are assured that God wants what is best for us, and we may surely assume that God wants to give all that we are told to ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus reiterates in 12:22-31 with the accompanying images of the ravens and lilies that God intends to meet our basic needs for clothing and food. But Jesus is most insistent that God wants to give us three great gifts: the Holy Spirit, justice, and the kingdom (a petition in the Lord’s Prayer and also a promise in 12:32).

We might sometimes hear the instruction in 11:1-13 and here as reassurance that God is prepared to give us anything we ask for persistently, but Jesus does not say this. He says what God, our Father, wants to give us, and we are to understand that these are the best possible gifts that he could give his children, who are precious to him.

While the parable is framed by references to prayer and faith, the emphasis in verses 3-8 is on justice and how it figures in the confrontation between the vulnerable justice-seeker and the unjust power-holder. The powerful and just God takes the place of the unjust judge in the end, granting justice to his vulnerable, chosen ones who cry to him day and night.

There is only one other use of this term chosen one in Luke. In 23:35, Jesus on the cross is mocked by the religious leaders as “God’s chosen one.” They, like the unjust judge in the parable, inadvertently get it right in spite of themselves. Then the chosen one on the cross cries out as the chosen ones are said to cry out here, day and night; it is a different verb in Greek, but the effect is the same.

Crying out with a loud voice, Jesus addresses the Father and commends his spirit to him just before he breathes his last. So the chosen one par excellence, the one chosen on behalf of all others, gives us perhaps the best picture of God’s justice. God does not delay long — three days only — before granting justice to that vulnerable one who prays from the cross. Life is what he grants him as his judgment on all unjust judgments. That is his answer, his justice.

Finally the parable ends with a question that reaches beyond the cross and the tomb and the resurrection into the future: “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” We may find the beginnings of an answer in the Gospel itself where a number of people are commended for their faith:

  • the centurion who believes Jesus will heal his slave, even from a distance;
  • the sinful woman who anoints Jesus’ feet and loves much;
  • friends of the paralytic who are willing to dig through a roof;
  • the bleeding, unclean woman who touches Jesus’ clothes in the crowd and is healed;
  • the Samaritan leper, whose gratitude turns him back to Jesus where he falls at his feet in thanksgiving;
  • and the blind beggar later in this chapter who sees Jesus for who he is and calls to him.

So a beginning of the answer to the question appears to be that the Son of Man will find faith, but it may be in unexpected places, as it has been in the Gospel — not among the religious professionals or the ones certain of their own righteousness, but among the outsiders, the unlovely, the unclean, the ones certain of their sinfulness.

Perhaps the parable suggests that a sign of faith will be a willingness to persist in prayer, as we see in this widow who persists against all odds in her fight for justice against the powerful judge. Another sign may be in what we pray for: daily bread, the Holy Spirit, the kingdom, justice — or something altogether different. 

First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 32:22-31

Corrine Carvalho

Believers, take heart!

This is the Sunday for those of us who do not exactly match the picture of submissive sainthood on the holy cards. This is “Demanding Believer Sunday!” The readings provide refreshing corrections to the mistaken idea that faith is the same as passive acceptance. Here faith is defined as the stubborn refusal to let God off the hook.

This reading from Genesis makes a clear connection between the figure of Jacob and the nation of Israel. The depictions in Genesis of those people who are founders of later groups provide characterizations of the groups that trace their ancestry from these founders. This is especially obvious in stories about the founders of Israel’s neighbors. The founder of Edom, for example, is Jacob’s older twin brother, Esau, who is depicted as a brutish, short-sighted man, a view that encapsulates Israel’s view of this neighboring country.

As the founder of the nation of Israel, Jacob/Israel was the most important patriarch of the Jewish nation. Outside of the book of Genesis, Old Testament texts mention Jacob far more often than Adam and Abraham combined. He is the Israelites’ most important ancestor.

In Genesis, Jacob is repeatedly depicted as a schemer. He convinces his brother to sell him his right to inherit as eldest son (25:29-34), and with the help of his mother, he tricks his father into giving him his brother’s blessing (27:1-40). He tricks Laban, his father-in-law, in order to receive the wages he had earned (30:37-43).

These manipulations left him estranged from his family. As this story opens, Jacob has brought his large family back to this ancestral land, but he fears that his brother is seeking revenge. Jacob leaves his family to face his brother alone. He does not know that he falls asleep at a sacred site.

The story of what happens that night contains several important elements:

  • It is the story of the founding of a sacred city, in this case “Penuel” which means “Face of God.”
  • It explains why Israelites do not eat a particular part of a sacrificial animal.
  • Most significantly, it is the story of why God changes Jacob’s name to Israel.

Israelite names were meant to connote something about that person, and a change in name indicated a significant change in status. The name “Jacob” meant “he takes by the heel,” referring to the way Esau supplanted Jacob when they were born. At this point in the story, Jacob comes into his own independent destiny. The exact meaning of the name “Israel” is debated, but the text connects it to the verb meaning “to persevere.”

At the center of the story is the mysterious wrestling match between Jacob and an enigmatic figure whom the text refuses to identify. This is one of several places in Genesis and Exodus where an ambiguous heavenly figure functions as a cypher for God. While later Christian tradition depicts these figures as angels, early Bible stories are not so clear. In Exodus 3:2 an angel appears in the burning bush but that angel quickly turns out to be God speaking directly to Moses.

In our passage the figure is not identified as an angel; it simply says that a “man” wrestles with Jacob. Yet at the end of the passage, Jacob declares that he has seen the “face of God.” Although the encounter takes place at night, the text goes out of its way to say this was not a dream. Jacob is not sleeping when the man appears, the mysterious wrestler is a man and not an angel, and Jacob is left with a real physical injury.

Jacob is a superhero. First, his demand for a blessing shows that he recognizes the man as something other than a robber. Second, it is Jacob who declares that this is God. Third, rather than bow down before this figure, he wrestles him to a draw! Up to this point in the story, Jacob has never been depicted as a strong man. That is Esau’s role. The reader is left to conclude that Jacob survives out of pure stubbornness to give in.

The bigger picture that modern readers often miss, though, is that this is really a story about Israel and God. In fact, it is ISRAEL’S story about itself and God. How interesting to note that Israel defines itself as a people who refuses to let go of God. They tell us that they will fight with God to demand that Yahweh bless them. They are a people who are willing to be changed, even damaged in that exchange, because they know that attaining that blessing is worth the sacrifice. They are not a people of passive faith.

For modern Christian readers who claim to be heirs of that faith, this story offers a vivid biblical model of prayer. It suggests that God is not looking for wimpy followers. Yahweh rewards those who fight for the heavenly blessing. Although at the outset of the story, Yahweh is unrecognizable, it is in wrestling with God that Jacob’s heirs see God’s face. The story ends with the sun shining and the reader limping away with a blessing.

This view of prayer is not unique in the Old Testament. It matches the assumptions that lie behind many of the psalms of lament. In the book of Job, Yahweh declares that Job was right to argue with God (42:7-8). In the gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus’ parable of the woman who nags the judge until he gives her what she wants (Luke 18:1-8) extends this definition of faith into the New Testament.

God rewards those who won’t let go. 

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 31:27-34

Garrett Galvin

Jeremiah starts this passage on a hopeful note.

In 29:11, he has promised us a “future of hope.” This is the lens through which Jeremiah sees the world. In spite of the many difficulties that the Israelites face, he rings the same note at the start of this passage. In verse 27, he envisions a future in which both Judah and Israel will be repopulated with human and livestock. The northern kingdom of Israel had been vanquished nearly 150 years, but Jeremiah still holds out hope for its restoration. Jeremiah’s inclusion of Israel highlights the fierceness of his hope. Many may have forgotten Israel by this time, but Jeremiah will not forget.

As we move into verses 28-29, Jeremiah acknowledges the pain of the contemporary situation. It cannot be overlooked. He reiterates a theme that he mentioned in his opening chapter. Part of Jeremiah’s call was to announce the Lord’s plucking up and pulling down (1:10). Just as Jeremiah stays true to his hopeful vision, he also stays true to his initial call from the Lord. These two moods within Jeremiah are not always easily reconciled. Perhaps we can best understand this passage and Jeremiah after considering another biblical prophet.

Jeremiah resembles the prophet Hosea in some important ways. There is an inevitability and a certain tragedy to both of their lives. Hosea would marry a prostitute and be bound to this relationship. Jeremiah must announce the plucking up and pulling down. This does not make Jeremiah many friends. We will see his king and many from his country turn on him. These two figures endure much pain, but they constantly return to the love of God. The heart represents this love. The word “heart” comes up repeatedly in both books, but especially in Jeremiah. The love of God is at the center of this pericope.

Jeremiah grapples with God’s love of a disobedient people. The disobedience to the Sinai covenant forged many centuries in the past has led to the current hardships. The first half of the book (Jeremiah 1-25) describes the collapse of Judah and is largely an indictment of it. Jeremiah offers us an orderly universe in which the disobedient are punished and justice is maintained. He denounces false hope and describes the ruin or “cup of wrath” that will be visited upon Judah. Once false hope has been denounced, Jeremiah can focus on the true hope that awaits God’s people in Babylon. This true hope takes a number of forms, but one of its most fundamental truths comes into shape in this pericope.

As Christ will do many centuries later, Jeremiah attacks the notion of communal guilt. Verse 29 makes it clear that children will not be punished for the sins of their parents. No one’s destiny is inevitable. Each person’s actions play a role in their salvation. This pericope announces a reversal of so much negativity that has held the Israelites bound. We get a sense that the “plucking up, destroying, overthrow, and bringing evil” of verse 28 is all part of this former understanding of collective guilt that Jeremiah rails against. The children should not be blamed for all these things of the past.

In the future just as God will watch over building and planting, God will also watch over a time when “all shall die for their own sins.” Jeremiah announces a freedom that takes us right back to the Garden of Eden. Everyone can make the same choice as Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or not. We find here a reversal of the downward spiral of sin initiated in the primeval history of Genesis.

Commentators have noted the eschatological nature of the renewal found in the new covenant of verses 31-34. This eschatology can easily be seen as conditioned by the goodness of creation found at the beginning of Genesis. Protology is eschatology and eschatology is protology. Earlier in this chapter, Jeremiah has announced that God “has created a new thing on the earth” (Jeremiah 31:22). Now we hear of a new covenant in verse 31. The Bible invokes the theme of newness repeatedly in another important eschatological book: Revelation (see 21:1, 2, 5). Jeremiah invokes God’s goodness to Israel in the exodus from Egypt, but not even this goodness is enough to understand what God will do. We can easily imagine this new covenant initiating a new beginning like after the flood and Noah’s ark.

God had previously gifted Israel with the grace of the law. In spite of the controversies with the Pharisees in the New Testament, we must always remember what a gift this law was. Previously, this law was mediated through Moses and inscribed on stone tablets by God (Exodus 34:2). So as precious as this was, it was always something external to God’s people. Now we see renewal and restoration in this pericope as the law will no longer remain something external, but it will be inscribed on the hearts of God’s people. It will be completely internalized. Verse 34 confirms the radicalism of this as God now seems equally present to all Israelites from greatest to least. As important as priest, prophet, and king are to Israel, God’s people can survive without the institutions of Jerusalem in Babylon.

Our gospel this Sunday serves to further elucidate Jeremiah 31:27-34 as we hear about the persistent widow. The heart of this parable concerns a widow who refuses to give up her vision of justice. The odds may seem insurmountable as corruption, inhumanity, and impiety characterize the widow’s world. Yet, the widow would seem to be the perfect exemplar of someone with the law inscribed on her heart. Justice is completely internalized, and no amount of corruption can change the expectations and inner workings of this widow.


Commentary on Psalm 121

Nancy deClaissé-Walford

Fifteen psalms in the Psalter, Psalms 120-134, share a common superscription, “Songs of Ascents.

The root meaning of the word “ascents” is ‘alah–”to go up.” The frequent references to Jerusalem and Zion in this collection of psalms (Psalms 122:1, 6; 125:1, 2; 126:1; 128:5; 129:5; 132:13; 133:3; 134:3) may account for their superscriptions. Since Jerusalem sits on a hill, no matter where one comes from, one always “goes up” to Jerusalem. Thus, pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate a number of annual festivals, including Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles may have sung the Songs of Ascents as they traveled along.

Others speculate that the “ascents” referred to in Psalms 120-134 are the steps of the temple, which Ezekiel calls “ascents” (Ezekiel 40:6). The Mishnah (a collection of rabbinic traditions that date from 200 BCE to 200 CE) states that “fifteen steps led up within [the Court of the Women] to the Court of the Israelites, corresponding to the fifteen songs of the steps in the Psalms, and upon them the Levites used to sing.” And, “The Levites on harps, and on lyres, and with cymbals, and with trumpets and with other instruments of music without number upon the fifteen steps leading down from the Court of the Israelites to the Women’s Court, corresponding to ‘The Fifteen Songs of Ascent’ in the Psalms; upon them the Levites used to stand with musical instruments and sing hymns.”

Although these fifteen psalms most likely come from a variety of times and places in the life of ancient Israel, the message of the collection as a whole is that Jerusalem is the place for the coming together of the people of God for celebrations and commemorations and for acknowledging the goodness and help of their God.

Psalm 121, the second Song of Ascents, is an individual hymn of thanksgiving sung by the psalm singer on the approach to Jerusalem; the hills of Jerusalem are in view and God guides the singer’s feet. Two voices are present in the psalm — an individual singer, who states firm trust in the Lord, and a respondent who assures the singer that the Lord will indeed guard the singer, thus dividing the psalm into two sections, corresponding to the two voices in the psalm:

  • Verses 1-2:    A Confession of Trust by the Individual
  • Verses 3-8:    A Response by the Priest or Worship Officiant

The psalm singer asks a question in verse 1 while approaching Jerusalem, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help (‘ezer) come?”, and then promptly answers his own question with, ‘My help (‘ezer) comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.’” The word “helper,” derived from, a verbal root that means “to help, to free, to come to help,” is a powerfully simple word. It is used in Genesis 2:18, where we read: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the (hu)man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’”

‘Ezer occurs in its noun form some sixty-five times in the Old Testament, and in most cases, it refers to the “help” of God in some sort of life-threatening situation (e.g., Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 33:20). Thus the word ‘ezer conveys the idea of a “help” that is a strong presence, an aid without which humankind would be unprotected and vulnerable to all sorts of unsettling situations.

The phrase “maker of heavens and earth” appears three times in the Songs of Ascents (Psalm 121:2; 124:8; and 134:3) and in Psalm 146:6. Its earliest occurrence in the biblical text is in the blessing of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:19. The phrase was incorporated into the Apostle’s Creed with the words: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth …”

In verses 3-8, another voice, the respondent to the psalm singer, offers words of assurance. In these verses word “keep” appears six times, always in reference to the Lord. Thus, while the psalm singer refers to the Lord as “my help,” the respondent refers to the Lord as “the one who keeps.” The word “keep” is derived from a verbal root thatmeans “to protect, to guard, to watch over, to take care of.”

It is rendered in a number of English translations as “keep” (RSV, NRSV, NASB), but the word conveys a more active concept. The Lord does not just “keep” the psalmist in the sense of providing a space for the psalmist. But the Lord “guards, protects, watches over” the psalmist, fending off those who seek out the psalmist or who would do the psalmist harm.

The respondent further declares that the Lord will not slumber and will not be asleep (verses 3-4). In other places in the book of Psalms, the psalm singers call on the Lord to awaken (Psalms 7:6; 35:23; 44:23; 59:4-5). The “sleeping deity” is a literary motif found in numerous texts in the ancient Near East. The words of Psalm 121, stand in sharp contrast to the texts accusing God of sleeping and thus not paying attention to the cries of the psalm singer.

In verse 5, the psalm singer is assured that the Lord is a shade (tsel). The word occurs ten times in the Psalter, often as part the phrase “the shadow (tsel) of your wings” (Pss 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7) and connotes the protection provided by a mother bird to her chicks (e.g., Isa 51:16). In verses 6-7, the psalm singer receives further assurance that neither the sun in the day nor the moon by night will strike her. Verse 2’s “maker of heaven and earth” and verse 6’s “by day and by night” are merisms, word pairs that summarize the total by naming its opposite boundaries.

Verse 8 adds another merism, “your going out and your coming in,” indicating that the Lord will protect the psalmist’s every movement. This phrase apparently refers to typical city life in ancient Israel in which workers left the protective confines of the walled city in the morning to carry out field and pasture work and returned in the evening to the shelter of the city walls.

Psalm 121 thus provides words of assurance that if the faithful fix their eyes squarely on the source of their “help,” then the Lord, “the maker of heavens and earth,” who “does not slumber,” will indeed “guard, keep watch over, protect” and “be a shade.” If we take our eyes off of the source of our assuredness, when we look to other “mountains” for help, then the mundane, the ordinary — the sun, the moon, the malicious things — find us and strike us. Thus may we all remember to “lift up our eyes to the mountains.”

Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5

Matt Skinner

If you’re just joining us now for this, the third of four Sundays devoted to Second Timothy, here’s what you’ve missed so far:

Timothy must persevere in the faith and teach others to do likewise by passing along the instruction he has received. What is his example for remaining steadfast despite the threat of persecution and the challenges posed by other teachers spreading false doctrine? Paul.

If you’re unfamiliar with basic information about the letter as a whole, may I suggest the first few paragraphs of my commentary on 2 Timothy 1:1-14?

Exhortations Renewed

Second Timothy moves into its climactic section beginning in 3:10 and extending through 4:8. The lectionary assigns most of this portion, although 2 Timothy 4:6-8 has to wait until next Sunday. What makes this section climactic is the return to impassioned exhortation, exhortation to Timothy to learn from Paul’s example as he conducts his ministry in the aftermath of his mentor’s impending death.

Timothy’s charge, as persecutions are sure to come and deceptive theology will gain additional traction, is again to persevere in true knowledge and belief. The letter does not express this as frantic advice-giving. Timothy should already be assured of the necessity to persevere because of what he has come to know and believe, for that assurance comes to him from his predecessors, as well as from his past. The letter refers to the people from whom Timothy has learned. (And it is “people,” more than Paul alone, but a collection of people, since the “whom” in 3:14 is plural. Perhaps the author again has Eunice and Lois in mind, as in 2 Timothy 1:5.) In addition, Timothy possesses, from exposure to scripture during his childhood, knowledge and confidence regarding God’s salvation. This reference (in 2 Timothy 3:16) has the Jewish scriptures (that is, more or less the Christian Old Testament) in view.

The comments in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 hardly amount to a refined “doctrine of scripture.” Moreover, several interpretive questions make them a topic for much discussion among scholars: uncertainty about whether the author means “each piece of the scriptures” or “all of scripture as a whole,” ambiguity in the rare word translated in the NRSV as “inspired by God,” and syntax that allows for different construals of the connection between scripture’s inspired character and its quality as something useful. The comments’ main focus, however, falls on scripture’s utility, its trustworthiness for the ministry Timothy is called to perform. For in scripture one learns about the salvation God provides.

Beginning in 2 Timothy 4:1, the exhortation’s attention turns from the past to the future, beginning with the prospect of Christ’s judgment. The attention to Christ’s “appearing and his kingdom” does not lend urgency to Timothy’s charge. The passage doesn’t issue warnings about a rapidly approaching end as much as it underscores the seriousness of Christ’s future work. The corresponding need to root people in “sound doctrine” and “the truth” matters so they might be prepared.

Timothy receives a solemn charge in 4:2, which might be the centerpiece of the entire letter: “preach the message [logos]”, that is, the good news about Jesus Christ (see also 2 Timothy 2:15). Again, emphasis falls on persistence in this ministry. But persistence does not mean a license to berate or steamroll. Notice the imperatives to “convince, rebuke, and encourage” and to teach “with the utmost patience.” Timothy, one hopes, understands this as being something other than a boom box (remember those?) blaring received teachings over and over again without regard for how others hear them. Discretion must be part of any evangelistic effort, no matter what kind of evangelism we have in mind. Whether by words, by prayers, or by deeds, Christians cannot effectively bear witness to Christ’s good news without careful attention to and deep respect for their audiences.

Preaching the Message of Second Timothy

1. A significant challenge of preaching from this letter, especially this portion, is preachers’ propensity to consider the exhortations to Timothy and apply them exclusively to circumstances of pastoral, ordained ministry. It’s to be expected, given the ways we ministers are conditioned to read texts and reflect deeply on our vocations. Nevertheless, sermons focused on the charge to Timothy should help congregations understand how their individual daily lives, too, are awash with opportunities for authentic ministry.

2. Preachers interested in highlighting this passage’s exhortative character might tend to the motivation embedded in the calls for Timothy to persevere. Notice that the letter, on the whole, expresses less interest in theological arguments or proofs and more interest in situating Timothy’s identity within a lineage of lived, demonstrated faithfulness — God’s, Paul’s, and others’. Paul urges Timothy to persevere, not by explaining to him why the faith is correct or salutary, but by reassuring him that the faith is part of who he, Timothy, is. It’s as close to him as his genes. Imparted, lived, experiential knowledge of God’s salvation has brought Timothy to where he is, and it is enough to complete the job.

The question easily arises, fit for sermons to ask: What women and men, whether famous or obscure, have lived the faith into us, whether we were aware of it at the time or not? Calling attention to these people may inspire us; better, it may bring the living Christ into clearer view among us.

3. Another avenue a sermon might follow leads strictly into 2 Timothy 4:3 and its interesting comment about people with “itching ears,” who “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” It’s an accusation any group might make against those who don’t listen “properly,” and at its root we find a common human tendency, that of surrounding ourselves with teachers and voices who say only the things we want to hear.

The rise of digital culture, with online news sources and the still-strange blogosphere, perhaps makes it easier than ever before for people to isolate themselves in echo chambers, interacting predominantly with like-minded people over serious issues. This becomes most hazardous when it gives us excuses to discount other voices. And when it creates teachers or preachers who pander to expanding audiences and dispense trite solutions. In circumstances where denominations or congregations suffer from deep divides, groups find it too convenient to ignore anyone who doesn’t “suit their own desires.”

Although Second Timothy wasn’t trying to say this to its original readers, maybe nevertheless the warning offered in 2 Timothy 4:3 can help us today realize that listening for “the truth” sometimes requires us to listen to a broad spectrum of people, so we don’t always trust only what our ears insist they want to hear.