Do Not Be Double-Minded

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” ~ James 1:5-8 (NASB)

The Word of God is an encourager, a teacher, a guide. It is also an admonisher for the body of believers. Sometimes we want to look past words like “judgment,” or in this case, “double-minded” because we think it’s talking about other people in the world, mainly unbelievers. But the Scriptures weren’t written for the world. They were written for the followers of God (e.g., 1 Cor. 10). Each letter written in the NT was for the church. Within those letters are topics that the church no longer wants to tackle because of our culture’s stance on political correctness. We tread lightly when it comes to homosexuality. We dismiss discussions of theistic evolution. We don’t even dare consider that Scripture talks about the father/husband being the head of the household. We reinterpret Scripture to accommodate the world’s understanding of morality. And we have convinced ourselves that these interpretations are true, or even worse, that we cannot know what truth is.

According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, to be double-minded (δίψυχος) is to be “uncertain of the truth of something.”[1] In the passage above, James is encouraging the scattered Jewish Christians to not doubt when asking the Lord for wisdom. He equates lack of faith with someone who is double-minded. The Dictionary of Bible Themes describes double-mindedness as being “Indicative of insincerity and hypocrisy. God requires wholeheartedness and sincerity from all people, both in their dealings with others and in their worship of him.”[2] James uses this term again in James 4:

“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (vv. 4-8, emphasis added)

Even in the book of Revelation, John is asked to write messages to the seven churches, one of them being Laodicea. In Christ’s words to the church, He describes the believers as being lukewarm:

“‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”  (Revelation 3:15-22, emphasis added)

James and John (or rather Christ in the context) make it clear that there are two choices: to have faith in God and submit to Him or to doubt God and be friends with the world. It seems straightforward with no room for gray areas.


So why did Peter, Paul, John, and James write some (what we might think are) harsh words to the church? Were they being judgmental? In a way, yes. Why? Because the church is called to righteousness. Because the church needs discipline. Because we wear the name of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul calls out the Corinthian body of believers because they let sin continue among them. Someone had taken his father’s wife, which was something that Paul had not even heard of among the Gentiles, the non-believers. Paul says to the church, “You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst” (v. 2). But how can Paul be so harsh? Aren’t we supposed to love and accept people even when they sin? Paul makes his point clear in vv. 9-13:

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (emphasis added)

We are all guilty of sinning, but should we willfully continue to sin? The Corinthians knew what was going on, but they said or did nothing. They let it continue, which means that the one who was guilty of such an act was unrepentant. Hebrews 10:26-31 also addresses this issue to Jewish Christians:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Some people argue that this passage is talking about people who haven’t really accepted Christ. However, to reiterate what I said in the beginning, the NT letters were written to believers. Hebrews is written to a Jewish Christian audience. In verses 19-25 the author (I believe to be Paul) addresses his audience with the inclusive pronoun “we” while talking about holding “fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (v. 23).” He continues to use “we” in the beginning of v. 26 which indicates that he is talking about Christians. The author further clarifies the statement about sinning willfully by adding, “…after receiving the knowledge of the truth…” So we know that the author is talking about Christians who have knowledge of the truth, and yet willfully continue to sin. What is the outcome for such a person? A brief scolding? Give him/her a hug because all we should do is demonstrate acceptance? The text is clear that such a person has regarded the blood of Christ’s sacrifice to be unclean. He/she has spit in Christ’s face along with the gifts of salvation and grace. This person faces a great judgment (vv. 30-31).

We as Christians are held responsible for what we know. The Word of God has been preserved for us. Do we have faith that what it says is true? If we do not understand something, are we willing to ask God in faith for wisdom and knowledge of His truth? And when we ask, are we willing to see the truth even if it may go against our culture or current beliefs? Paul (when he was Saul) had to face the truth that his zeal for God was not acted out in the right way. He believed that persecuting Christians was right because he loved God. But when Jesus appeared to him, Paul found out he was really persecuting God. Peter doubted while walking on water. He denied Jesus three times. He even excluded Gentile Christians for a time having been influenced by other Jews, and he had to be rebuked by Paul. These men confessed their sins and turned away from them. They wrote to the church having experienced hardships themselves. They wrote as fathers/leaders who sought to help their spiritual children bear fruit for God’s kingdom. The path to righteousness takes faith and hard work as we war against our flesh daily. We will stumble at times. We will be tempted and even persecuted. But we have each other for encouragement and admonition. We cannot allow the church to become synonymous with the world no matter how much we might be hated. Instead of being unsure about truth like double-minded people, let us ask God in faith for wisdom and understanding. If we seek Him with all of our hearts, He will be faithful to lead us.


©Lauren Heiligenthal



[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 370.

[2] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).


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