Have you ever had a place that itched but you just couldn’t find the spot to scratch that would relieve it? It can nearly drive a person up a wall! It is not until you scratch in some seemingly completely unrelated area that you find the relief you seek. I have also found that sometimes in life we think we know what we want but, in reality, what we are seeking would not really satisfy our desires. We try to scratch an emotional or carnal itch but can’t satisfy the desire. We are looking in the wrong place or for the wrong things.
For example, some people think they want complete social and moral freedom. They think they want complete freedom to act on each urge or to satisfy each base impulse. But what they generally find is that such a life is not ultimately satisfying. The prodigal son soon found that wasting his substance on riotous living did not satisfy his deepest desires. When he finally came to himself, he found that even being a hired servant in his own father’s house was far better for him than the course he had previously chosen (Luke 15:13-21). Many people think they want moral freedom but what they really need is freedom from sin and satan (Rom. 6:23; Acts 8:23; II Tim. 2:26).
Another example is when people seek to remedy an emptiness they feel in life by seeking material wealth and so they heap up silver as dust (Job 27:16). In their pursuit of wealth they often abandon the important things in life. Many mistakenly think that providing toys and gifts for their children and jewels and baubles for their wives can substitute for real love and affection. It does not and can not. All those things can never replace just being there and doing things with your family. Many think that having great wealth will eliminate all of their troubles. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts” (I Tim. 6:9). So instead of scratching the itch of emptiness with seeking material possessions we ought to be seeking the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8). For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and loose his own soul (Mark 8:36).
Some people see what they believe to be injustice in society and feel the urge to intervene and correct the problem. So they set out to make ever more laws governing social structures and institutions. However, they fail to understand the true cause of all real injustice is not structures and institutions in society and it is not solved by social engineering, but the real problem is a heart problem and the solution comes in making the heart right. When Paul faced slavery in the first century, he did not mount a campaign to eradicate the institution of slavery in the ancient world. He simply preached the gospel of Christ and knew that it’s affect on people’s heart would change the way they conducted their lives. Paul’s actions with Philemon and Onesimus illustrate the principle. He told Philemon to receive Onesimus as more than a servant, “a brother beloved” (Philem. 16). Instead of seeking social justice we need to seek justification (Luke 16:15; Rom. 3:30).
Some people are exercised over the world’s disapproval of the Lord’s church and try desperately to make the world love it. It is normal to want to be loved and accepted. But we must realize that the world will never love the Lord’s church as it is scripturally constituted. The world hates the Lord, as He presents Himself in His word to the world, and they will hate His church if it follows His example (John 15:20). The urge to make the Lord’s church more palatable to world by watering down it’s doctrine or changing it’s mission or altering it’s design is foolhardy and misguided, however well-intentioned. Adopting the practices of the pagan world to be accepted by them was a course adopted by ancient Israel and was a course fraught with all manner of unintended deleterious consequences. Furthermore, it was a result of their rejection of the Lord and His will (I Sam. 8:5-22). It is trying to satisfy an itch by scratching in the wrong spot. Instead of seeking the world’s approval, we ought to be seeking the world’s conversion.
Most people are well intentioned. But good intentions are not enough when it comes to our salvation and service to God. Just scratching doesn’t always relieve the itch.
Eric L. Padgett