James 1:8 The “Double-Minded” Man

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (ESV)

This passage talks about someone who needs wisdom. Perhaps they have a big decision to make. So they pray and ask God to give them wisdom. Now, I have always assumed the warning of verses 6-8 to mean that the person praying for wisdom is being punished for thinking “maybe God won’t answer my prayer, maybe he won’t give me wisdom”.

This interpretation could put you in a catch 22 situation if you are an introspective sort of person. Until you read this verse, you were confident you would get your request granted, but now you are not so sure, which more or less guarantees that it will be denied!

But I wonder if something else is going on. Most commentators agree that the concept of being “single-minded” as opposed to “double-minded” is a running theme throughout the book of James. The single-minded person is living wholeheartedly for God, whilst the double-minded person is vacillating between living for God and for the “world”.

So perhaps the double-minded man’s internal struggle is not so much “will he or won’t he give me wisdom?” but “do I or do I not want to what God wants”. He is saying to God, “tell me what I should do, but if I don’t like the advice, I reserve the right to do my own thing instead.”

The challenge for us then is not “does God really want to give me wisdom”, but “do I really want to know his will”? Or am I happier making my own plans and decisions?

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