“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to 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)
The context is trials. Believers are to reason through an intellectual process that results in the a believer joyfully embracing trials. This joyfully embracing is a result of understanding the end result or purpose of the trials – steadfastness. It is steadfastness through trials which serves as the agent that God uses to mature his children.
Due to the severity, complexity, and anxiety experienced during trials a believer may not know how to appropriate God’s grace and means by which to remain steadfast. The remedy prescribed is to ask God for the necessary wisdom. Rather than worry or react unbiblicaly a child of God may ask his heavenly father for necessary wisdom. The believer is promised that first, God will give the needed wisdom, and secondly that God will not rebuke or criticize the believer who needs to ask. The believer is simply told to ask in faith. Doubting will result in the believer not receiving the necessary wisdom.
James tells us that this person, the believer who asks not in faith, but from a perspective of doubt is unstable. James describes this person as like a wave in the ocean that is pushed around by the wind. Believers who do not exercise faith are subject to being tossed around by the winds of doubt. James calls this person a double-minded man.
Double-minded has been called the most expressive words in this letter. It is only used twice in the New Testament, here and in chapter four, verse eight. It is possible that James “coined” this word. There is no evidence of its use prior to James’s letter.
Dipsuchos literally means “two-souled.” The expression gives us the idea of “a man two-souled.” It is a vivid picture of the doubter’s mind-set. It is a picture of a man who has two personalities that are in on-going conflict with each other. One mind is turned to God and the things of God and the other mind is turned to the world and its attractions. A man who is two-souled or double-minded believes God will answer his prayer but also disbelieves that God will answer his prayer because he is influenced to think like the world thinks. Heibert called this man a “walking civil war.” This man is trying to do the impossible and what Christ said He would reject – a man trying to walk in two directions.
This type of a man James says is actually unstable in all of his ways. This man is unstable because he is not settled on one conviction; God isn’t quite good enough to warrant his full attention, but the world isn’t what he wants either. He is trying to have his cake and eat it at the same time. It is like who was like Israel when they had one eye on God and one eye on Egypt. This man cannot stand without wobbling or wavering.