Double-Minded People

Double-Minded People

Robert Wurtz II


“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6–8 NKJV)


Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [you] double minded. (James 4:8)


Faithlessness, filthy hands (sinful behavior), impure hearts, and double-mindedness separate us from God. This is the clear implication of these two texts and is the opposite of resisting the Devil. In verse 8, the verbs are in the imperative. When our hands are unclean (a metaphor for sinful deeds) and our hearts are double-minded (a metaphor for sinful thoughts), we must cleanse the hands and purify the hearts by confessing our sin, repenting, and renouncing it.


James calls his readers to a radical repentance-conversion that orients the whole person to God and His ways in this world (WBC). An ancient saying fits well with James: “woe to the sinner who leads a double life” (Sir. 2:12). One cannot be friendly with God and the world simultaneously. In this condition, a person is not saved. James recognizes this and makes what is effectively an altar call.


Weep and Howl


James 4:9 tells us to be miserable, mourn and weep (NASB). Proper repentance will show appropriate signs (NIBC). Inwardly they should grieve; a “What have I done?!” feeling. The repentant express their inward sorrow outwardly and God-wards as they mourn and wail, a mark of all true revivals. Unfortunately, modern evangelism has short-circuited this process by promising peace before a person fully realizes the seriousness of their condition (ibid). James avoids that trap and calls on them to experience the seriousness of their sin. The purpose is to bring a person to a single-minded and wholehearted conversion that glorifies God and rejects sin. 



Double-mindedness is a clear theme of James’ letter. Imagine a person putting on Christ one minute and the Devil the next. Again, our passage describes the phenomena as double-mindedness and gives a warning, “Cleanse [your] hands, [you] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [you] double-minded.” (James 4:8b) Certainly, this does not sound like a true believer that has received a new heart and a new Spirit, but a nominal Christian. 


 Our Greek word for double-minded is dipsychos (δίψυχοι) and is a word coined by James. From di (twice) and psuchē (soul) or “double-souled,” double-minded. This was John Bunyan’s “Mr. Facing-both-ways.” (A.T. Robertson) James 1:8 tells us that they are unstable in all of their ways. The Greek word translated as unstable means “not set.” They are unready and unfruitful. 


The Divided Man


Anything we are splitting our allegiance to God with can potentially split our personality. This may sound like a psychological phenomenon, but a person can act like a Christian in some situations and become almost someone nobody recognizes in others. It is because their allegiance is split between God and something else. The context of our passages reveals that the allegiance is divided with this present evil world. 


All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. This is possessions, pleasures, and power/position. These are the three things that Satan has used to damn the race of men (Paris Reidhead). Therefore, if someone desires power, wealth, or illicit experiences, those desires will cause a SPLIT in that person’s personality, and they will behave doublemindedly. 


Wesley and the Divided Man


But, beloved, this ought not so to be. John Wesley has this note on James 4:8 as it pertains to possessions, “Draw nigh to God in prayer, and he will draw nigh unto you, will hear you; which that nothing may hinder, cleanse your hands—Cease from doing evil. And purify your hearts—From all spiritual adultery. Be no more double-minded, vainly endeavoring to serve God and mammon.”


Giving our minds and hearts to anything other than God will split us into two different people. We will invariably shift our loyalties and perspectives to fit the other allegiance depending on the context. This is very sobering! We ought to be the same Godly person in every place we are found. In the churches of God, there is simply no place for the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde. Wesley specifically points at mammon (money) as a potential cause of this phenomenon. Jesus said that we could not serve God and mammon. Why? Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24b ESV) But this has kept people from trying. This is only one example. 


Divided by Mammon (Money)


If a person is serving mammon (money), their decisions will be based on what’s in the best interest of money rather than God and man’s best interests. This has the potential of putting a different face on the person: there is the person they are when money is involved and the person they are when money is not an issue. The same can be said when someone desires power, control, or a position. The lust of the eye also warps a person’s mind and personality. 


The time would fail to give examples of trusted leaders who betrayed the trust privately. Instead, people tell of men and women who are totally different in certain settings than they are in the church (for example). People brace themselves for the “you” they know you’re about to become because now we are on the subject of __________. They don’t expect you to be loving or gentle but predictably unloving, abrasive, and challenging. I often ask, how can this happen and the perpetrator not know it? They always seem oblivious to their bad behavior but can spot someone else’s a mile away. This is another problem with double-minded deception. 


Impurity of the Heart


The first step to repentance is to acknowledge you are sinning. We can’t be so blind to our actions that we are the ONLY person who doesn’t know we have a problem. Denial is one of humankind’s oldest personal deceptions. James gives his solution, “purify [your] hearts, [you] double-minded.” Again, this verb is in the imperative and is not optional. 


Satan loves to fill the hearts of the double-minded. Take Ananias and Sapphira, who were prepared to lie to the Holy Ghost over money and popularity because Satan had filled their hearts. (Acts 5:1ff) They may have had a new heart before, but now they have opened the door, and Satan has filled it with his lies and reasonings. The Greek verb used for ‘filled thine heart” is the same for the filling with the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:31.



Purify your heart(s)



I’m convinced that the people sent to hell in Matthew 7:22-23 with the words, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you,” are the double-minded ones. They heard sermons, read passages, and saw posts like this one and yet deceived themselves for years into thinking it’s okay to be two people: the spiritual person at church and the “other” person. Nobody but them will be surprised on that great and dreadful day because the people around them always knew they were double-minded but were afraid of them, ignored their behavior, and in some cases, enabled them.


So again, James gives his solution, purify [your] hearts, [you] double-minded. Stop thinking it’s okay to continue this way because you believe God is speaking through you or answering your prayers. He answered the prayer of Balaam’s ass and opened his mouth to declare thus says the Lord. Purify is a word dealing with proper cleaning. It is sometimes described as the work of God and others as the work of man. 


On our end, we need to renounce anything that we have allowed, no matter what or how long, to split our souls into two different personalities. A well cannot bring forth both salt water and fresh. Likewise, a vine cannot yield both fruit and thorns and briars. Double-mindedness makes a person unfruitful. There can be no lasting fruit in such a life. Solution? We must renounce anything that has the potential of splitting our personality.


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