How Does James 1:7-8 Define a Double Minded Man?

Ashford Sonii

Ashford Sonii

Contributing Writer
Published: Jan 24, 2023
How Does James 1:7-8 Define a Double Minded Man?

No one wants to be called a "double minded man." But how do we avoid behaving like one?

I would love to be seen as the super macho guy who knows it all on the road. I’d love to be that confident person who can navigate without a map. But to be honest, I am so thankful for the GPS app on my phone. When it comes time for me to drive to a place I’ve never been, worry doesn’t come to mind because I’m confident that my GPS has my back.

My GPS is extremely consistent in providing good directions. The problem is my inconsistency with fully depending on my GPS can get in the way. At times, I gather confidence over the GPS, telling myself, “the traffic doesn’t actually look that bad, so I’ll just keep going.” Even worse, I might say, “I think I see a better shortcut.” I cringe now in reflection. The GPS has perspectives higher than my own. Why would I doubt it?

In those moments, I’m stuck between two ways: my idea of how to get where I want and my GPS’ view of how I can get where I want. In the same way, when we open our Bible and embrace God’s direction, we let go of our ideas about how to lead our lives, choosing something more reliable. Trying to get somewhere without fully submitting to one source of guidance results in a double-minded man.

How does the Bible Define a Double-Minded Man?

The Bible defines a double-minded man in James 1:7-8:

“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.”

From the text, we gather that the Bible defines a double-minded man as unstable and doubtful. James explains to every believer that we cannot expect to go in one direction while listening to two contradicting guides of faith and doubt. It is like we’re going in opposite directions at once. Faith is to believe and have confidence in something (in this case, God), while doubt is the exact opposite. Like when we cross our eyes in opposite directions, our vision becomes blurred and split. We all experience doubt from time to time. We all want to have things both ways sometimes. When we turn that desire into action, we experience instability. Just as you would sway back and forth during a headache or while trying to walk while keeping your eyes crossed, we feel the same effects trying to act on faith while acting on doubt.

God asks us to approach our life decisions and circumstances following one source. He calls us to commit to faith in Him, continuously choosing to believe in what He says according to Scripture. We become unstable when we mix our human perspectives with God’s perspective on our situation. We can’t go in two directions at once. James tells us we shouldn’t expect to get the knowledge we need from God if we are living that way.

When God gives us the information we seek to guide our lives in the best ways, He’ll do so through the Bible and the godly people around us. God is limitless in the ways he can communicate with us. Like a GPS, we sometimes need to listen and follow instructions according to his scriptures and not entertain contrasting voices.

What Is the Audience that James Was Writing To?

James pens this letter to every believer, reaching into the hearts of every Christian seeking to live out their faith throughout each day’s complications loyally. However, he did write the letter to a particular audience, which helps us understand what we can learn from the passage.

The text suggests that James specifically wrote to Jewish Christians in Palestine. James led the church in Jerusalem, and he addresses them in the letter. The people of the Jerusalem church were treated horribly due to their religion, and they were poor. They were in a bind on a social and spiritual level. Additionally, believers were living according to the world’s standards, contradicting God’s commandments. James writes to them, urging that they seek what God has to say about every matter and follow them to work out their problems of feeling pressure from society’s influences, trials, and persecution.

Though James makes Christians his audience, he doesn’t leave out the surrounding situations of real life outside the church. He truly addresses how we are to live as Christians, considering everyday problems with everyday people—both rich and poor, harsh and kind. James doesn’t play around. He declares we ought to have our lives completely submitted to God instead of society (James 4:4). He encourages his audience that there is a greater reward to press on for, bigger than this world could ever give us (James 1:12). In fact, we should be careful not to live our lives according to the ideas the world presents, but rather than what God has to say about every matter.

James wants each believer to take their faith seriously, focusing on the ways of faith that God has called us to live. James makes a point to communicate that when we don’t keep what we say and express in line with our faith in God’s Word, it’s like having a worthless religion (James 1:24). Even further on the ways of faith and seriousness, James mentions how faith without works is dead, clarifying that even Satan believes there is a God. Lastly, he calls for seriousness in passionate prayer like Elijah, where even nature responded to God through his prayer (James 5:13-17). Wonders such as those of Elijah don’t happen for a double-minded man. James wants every believer to put their faith to work by loyally acting on the things we say we believe as followers of Christ.

What Are the Qualities of a Double-Minded Man?

Have you ever tried to write a kind letter to your friend while having a negative conversation about them with someone else? You may find yourself accidentally writing down the harsh words you’re discussing rather than the kind ones you should be writing. It’s frustrating, a waste of time, and it shows you can’t serve two purposes at once.

We often see how someone who divides their attention in two or more ways struggles to be present, feels anxious, and makes compromises while trying to live in contrary ways. If we have ever experienced double-mindedness, we are out of focus. Our vision and drive are being pulled in more than one direction. When we use our attention for multiple purposes, tasks never get completed. Everything we do is compromised. Multitasking is said to be the myth of productivity. Living double-minded is the myth of fulfillment. We think it will render a filling life, but the opposite happens.

A very strong quality of a double-minded man is disloyalty. We can’t be married to purity and also be married to sin. We can’t be married to believing and also be married to doubting. To be loyal is to be allegiant to pursuing one way rather than multiple ways. Disloyalty is inevitable because a double-minded man is pursuing multiple contrary ideas.

The qualities of a double-minded man do not please God. Hebrew 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith. Doubt is the opposite of faith; they zero each other out when they both exist together. When we hold faith and doubt in our hearts, it’s like having nothing. When we’re looking a different way from God, we’re not looking His way to see His directions for us. God wants to be completely submitted and sold out for Him so that we can focus and see the beauty and promise of the prosperous plans He has for us.

Does Doubt Automatically Mean Someone Is a Double-Minded Man?

When James mentions a double-minded man, he alludes to someone with two ways of thinking or two souls. A double-minded man has two desires that don’t agree with one another. So, to be double-minded is an attempt to be submitted to both doubt and faith.

Just because doubt is present doesn’t necessarily mean one is double-minded. Double-mindedness is portrayed when we say or think, “God, I trust in you,” but our actions show that we doubt. A good example is thinking we believe in God’s command to tithe, but when it comes time to give, we have higher priorities. James clearly states, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

Many of us have experienced varying traumas of untrustworthiness with the people we’re surrounded by. We may feel the ground beneath us is always unsteady. The world, the people, and the problems we face haven’t changed much since James wrote his letter. Just like today, the people of James’ time had a list of reasons, according to their world perspectives, why they couldn’t trust God’s Word and do things their way instead. Like a GPS (but perfect), James wants us to know that the Word of God has a far better perspective by which our lives should be guided. The thing is, we can’t try and find our own way while also trying to go the way of the Lord.

Doubting the Lord doesn’t make someone double-minded, but if they choose to have faith in the Lord and live abundantly to eternity, the two can’t exist without being double-minded. Like a marriage, God wants us to be fully committed to Him, not committing adultery by partnering with doubt.

How to Help Others Who Struggle with Being Double-Minded

It is nothing short of being human to struggle with being a double-minded man. In Mark 9:24, we reflect on this type of humanity when a father of a demon-possessed boy presents his son to Jesus, asking for healing: “I believe; help my unbelief.’” This Scripture gives every believer the hope that lives in Jesus Christ on overcoming being double-minded with faith and doubt through coming to Jesus in honesty and humility to help fix us.

When we look to help others who struggle with being double-minded or even get help for ourselves, it’s important to remember that we are humans. We will fall short of the resolution because the power lies in Jesus himself. Philippians 2:13 teaches us, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” This communicates that any struggle we seek to be freed from (including double-mindedness) can only be resolved through Christ Himself. By truly seeking after God and what He has to say about every situation, it is through his power and making all things work together for our good that helps those struggling with double-mindedness. This does demand spiritual growth as we’re not the ones in control.

Once we surrender to the truth that Jesus is the true Savior and we’re simply messengers, we can disciple those struggling in love and fellowship. We can pray on their behalf in faith, even fast. We can introduce them to trusted friends of faith and provide them with resources. We can share our testimonies on the ways God has spiritually and practically turned situations in our lives around to be a vessel for strengthening their faith. Lastly, we can ask God in complete faith to use us to help them through their struggle with double-mindedness.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/IanaChyrva

Ashford Sonii is a lover of Jesus, husband, and father. Ashford enjoys ministry, learning, and communicating practical life applications of God’s Word within marriage, family, and how to walk with Jesus. He and his wife Olivia currently live in North Carolina with their twin girls, Ivey and Oakley.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. We hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in your life today.

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