The word for today is “double-minded.” Most of us have times when our faith wavers, periods when we are unsteady in our life in Christ, moments when we walk with a limp. In our reading of James 4:7-5:9, James offers the wisdom of how we can regain an unwavering, steady, and unhindered faith. In 1:7, the apostle writes that one who doubts is double-minded, unstable in all his ways. Therefore, in our reading, the apostle writes, “purify your hearts, you double-minded (vs. 8).
To be “double-minded” is to be of two contending minds. Those who are double-minded have a divided opinion. Yet, they are reluctant to give up either one. So, they vacillate between the two. In the middle between them, uncertainty, hesitation, and doubt creep into our souls. This duplicity of heart and mind makes our whole lives both unsteady and unproductive. We just set out in one direction when the other interest calls us back. So we get nowhere.
Limping on Two Different Opinions
The paradigm for this wavering and the fruitless condition is found in the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel. King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom had set up an altar to the idol Baal and planted a sacred grove for the worship of the pagan god. The holy land was now polluted with a rival to the One God who had given it to His people.
To deal with this appalling idolatry, the prophet Elijah persuaded the king to gather the Israelites and the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Then the prophet asked the people, “How long will you go limping on two different opinions?” If the Lord is God, then follow Him but if Baal, then follow him (1 Kings 18:21). When the people could not answer, Elijah set up a striking test of the truth and power of the One True God. You can read that story of competition between the altar to God and the altar to Baal in 1 Kings 18:17-46. The result of that contest was the recommitment of Israel to the Lord God. This rededication also ended the drought that God had sent to punish the king and his people for their idolatry.
Are We Double-Minded?
If we find that we too are limping along in our walk with the Lord, then we might ask ourselves whether unknowingly or not, we have become double-minded. If we feel stuck in our growth in faith and unproductive in our spiritual life, then we should exam ourselves. We should ask ourselves whether we have set up a rival to the Lord in our concerns, motives, and interests. If our worship in the House of God loses its sense of devotion, then perhaps we have become devoted to something else along with our Lord and Savior. And if doubts begin to toss us about, then we can be sure that some competing mindset has invaded the chamber of our souls.
To Heal the Divided Mind
What then is to be done if we find that we have a divided mind? First, we must hear the Word of the Lord. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus teaches, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon, that is, “riches” that we trust above everything else (Strong’s #3126, 156). In our reading, James put a cutting edge to the same thought, “Whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (vs. 4). The lesson is clear: the love of God is incompatible with the concern for the things of this world.
Moreover, we should take the advice of James, who writes, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded” (vs. 8). If the only true and lasting treasure is found in the Lord and His Kingdom (Matthew 13:44-46), then we should free ourselves from the concerns, worries, and desires for the riches of this passing world.
In summary, we cannot have it both ways. We have the choice between the confusion that is born of inner conflict and the peace of mind that is a gift of God. We must decide between the wavering of mixed loyalties and the steadiness of a single commitment. It is either the insecurity of trusting in ourselves and our possessions or the security of trust in the goodness of our Heavenly Father. It is either lurching this way and that in doubt or resting in the calm of confident faith. These reflections should prompt us to renounce double-mindedness and quit limping on our divided opinions.
Our reading should inspire us to find ways to stir up our zeal for the ways of God. How shall we do this? Perhaps you have some suggestions to share with us. However, the apostle points to the primary method, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (vs. 8). Those who would be single-minded should hurry to Him as the Prodigal Son, should entreat Him as the thief on the cross, and should cry out to Him like the father of the boy with the evil spirit, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The God of Mercy is ever ready to hear our prayers. According to James, assurance is true if we ask aright, not seeking worldly but heavenly things (vs. 2-3). How much more will He swiftly answer our prayers to replace our double-minded with singleness of heart and mind that finds our joy and our hope in Him alone.