Author: Ron Graham
—Itching Palms, Itching Feet
We all get an itch at times. It may be an itch that goes away with a scratch. Some people have an itch that is severe and very distressing. But the itches I want to talk about are spiritual itches. They are described metaphorically as itching ears, itching palms, and itching feet. However these are metaphors for itchings of the soul.
Talking in Metaphors
Itching is a common and familiar malady. There are many causes of itching: sunburn, fungus, chickenpox, allergies, insect bites, and what not. You can even get itching by suggestion. You may feel an itch right now just from reading this paragraph! Itching besets us very easily.
But I am concerned about the itches that afflict the soul rather than the skin. Since the soul does not have physical form, we use parts of the body as metaphors when talking about our spiritual inward person. Indeed we call the soul our “heart”.
Paul even says in a double metaphor, "May the eyes of your heart be enlightened" (Ephesians 1:8). In similar figures of speech we will talk about maladies of the soul using the metaphors of itching ears, hands, and feet.
1 Itching Ears
¶“3The time will come when people will not bear with wholesome teaching, but will gather teachers to themselves to tell them what their itching ears like to hear. 4People will turn their ears away from the truth and will listen to myths” (2Timothy 4:3-4).
This is a common spiritual itch. People become uneasy hearing the truth and want to hear something soothing or distracting. God’s truth is being preached by faithful teachers, but people’s “ears” itch for someone else who will tell them the myths they want to hear.
By the way, notice in this passage it is not the teachers who are gathering people to teach them error. It is the people who are gathering the teachers. The teachers are happy to be popular, but the itch, the movement away from the truth, is primarily with the people.
Now let's move on to another common spiritual itch...
2 Itching Palms
In our language, when we say, as a figure of speech, that someone has an “itching palm”, we mean that the person hankers for money, is avaricious and even dishonest. Paul gave Timothy a strong warning about this...
¶“9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap. They fall into many silly and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and distruction. 10The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. Some people, eager for money, have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many sorrows” (1Timothy 6:9-10).
Money is not evil in itself, but longing for it, having a nagging itch for it, can distract you from godliness and lead to the ruin of your life. Remember that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1Timothy 6:6).
Now there's one more spiritual itch to consider...
3 Itching Feet
We use the term “itchy feet” for people who are never satisfied where they are and have a constant nagging desire to go off elsewhere to greener pastures. They never seem to know why, or where to go, but they feel unsettled.
This has a negative effect on those around them, because a drifter says in effect, “You can't rely on me. I'm staying here only so long as it suits me. Any time I could get a whim and flit off. I'm not committed to you.”
What a contrast that attitude is to God’s lovely words to us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). And listen to Ruth’s lovely commitment to Naomi...
¶“16Please don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from following you, for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do to me his very worst, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17).
Of course we do not expect a “till death do us part” commitment in every relationship (but in marriage it is required). However in many circumstances we might need a strong commitment to duration and tenure, in the home, the Christian congregation, the workplace, in government, and so forth.
A congregation of Christians especially needs members who can say, “I'm not going to leave you any time soon. I want to put roots down with you. This congregation is no halfway-house to me.”
Of course members in transit may have legitimate reasons for a short stay. They may not be drifters with some whimsical dream that makes them itch to be elsewhere without real purpose.
Whatever your circumstances and place in society, try to be reliable in the long term, and bring stability to those who need you by your continuing presence.
I always feel sad when I read Paul’s plea to Timothy, "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2Timothy 4:9-11 NIV).