Double Minded


James 1:5-8 New International Version (NIV)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

This passage comes just after James has told us to be joyful in trials, as troubles ultimately make us more complete humans. However, James doesn’t expect us to go through these trials in the dark. For now in vs 5, he recommends that we ask God for wisdom. The Greek word sophia used for wisdom means clarity. In other words, if you don’t get it and something isn’t making sense – then ask!

The visual for the next part is nice – this giving of wisdom is done generously – the Greek word haplos literally means without folds, meaning nothing held back or hidden.  Clarity then unfolds around us, simple and frank without wrinkles.  Sounds refreshing, so how to get this wisdom?  Three things: We must ask, we must believe, we must not doubt.

The first part is asking. This word is not a brief inquiry like other times that the word ask is used in the Bible. This is aiteo, which also means to beg or demand. The tone is of a pleading nature. The request cannot be flippant, we must be sincere.

The second part is equally important, to have faith or belief when we ask. The Greek word pistis more literally means that you’ve been persuaded. It is something foundational to this pursuit, and we must be persuaded that what we seek is truth.

The third part is the challenge for me. I’ve always read this as “doubt” being the opposite of faith, so basically not believing  But it is actually more complicated, the Greek word is diakrino, broken down to dia meaning back and forth and krino meaning to judge.  James is adding another dimension then by suggesting that those who waver back and forth in their decision making won’t get wisdom.  The following visual explains doubt as being like a wave in a violently agitated sea, with the wind driving and tossing them back and forth. He adds more, saying someone who can’t make a decision, going back and forth is really a double minded person. In Greek this is dipsuchos literally someone with 2 souls. It is possible then to have faith and yet be still wresting with another belief. I think the easiest example of having two souls is our desire to follow God and at the same time still following self.

Until we put to death our self will, self interests, etc then even when we plead for answers in faith, we probably won’t get the wisdom we seek.  Is it because God won’t grant it? No… remember he gives to ALL. It’s because of us, as vs 7 uses the word “receive”.  This Greek word is lambano, which means receive and to take, with the emphasis on the assertiveness of the receiver. In other words, in our double minded state, although wisdom may be offered, we don’t take hold or accept it.

What’s the ultimate consequence of not having clarity when troubles come? Being unsettled. This section ends with the words, “unstable in all they do”. Turning to the Greek the word akatastatos literally means unsettled, and hodos is a journey or path.

Are you unsettled in your journey? Need clarity and wisdom to the nature of the events around you? Then ask sincerely, believing completely, without any back and forth internally. If there is internal wavering, where is the double mindedness? Most often it’s our selfish nature struggling with the divine.

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