Are You Double-Minded?
What does the Bible have to say about being double-minded? If double-mindedness is so bad, what is the alternative to it?
The phrase double-minded appears only two times in the New Testament. Both occurrences are found within the book of James, in the context of a serious warning. Let’s review both usages:
- James 1:6-8: “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 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
James isn’t mincing words in these two passages. He’s clear that being double-minded is a serious problem.
The Greek word for “double-minded” is dipsuchos. The word breaks down into two parts: di[s], which means “two,” and psuche, which means “soul” or “life.” That leaves us with the literal definition of “two souls” or “two lives.” In other words, half of the person wants to worship God while the other half doesn’t want to worship God. The person lives in a constant state of compromise and doubt.
James is warning Christians not to be wobbly, indecisive and conflicted in their desire to obey God. But there’s more to be understood about double-mindedness.
This is a description of people who have one foot in the world and one foot in God’s way of life. They’re stuck in the middle—confused, restless and unable to make up their minds about where they want to be—or who they want to serve.
“If the LORD is God, follow Him”
People tend to want to hear smooth things. We don’t like anyone shining a light on the hidden and dark recesses of our mind. We don’t like feeling as if we have to change. We want to feel good about where we are.
This is a reality that made the job of a prophet in ancient Israel an absolute headache. Having to confront people openly about how they were sinning, how they didn’t measure up, and how they desperately needed to change was not easy.
Elijah the prophet must have understood this, and he took the double-minded Israelites of his day to task.
To be single-minded is to focus exclusively on pleasing God and obeying His will. The nation had fallen into apostasy under King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel. Together they led the people into syncretistic (which just means mixing) worship, even building a temple to the Canaanite god Baal and erecting an image of the goddess Asherah.
After a punishing 3½-year drought for the nation’s sins, God sent Elijah to confront Ahab. During the confrontation, Elijah basically told Ahab to summon the Israelites, Baal’s prophets and Asherah’s prophets to Mount Carmel for a contest to see whose god was real. Elijah, in effect, said, “We’re going to settle this once and for all—is the LORD God or is Baal god?”
The challenge had been set and everyone was present. Whichever god could make fire appear and consume the prepared sacrifice was the God. But before the showdown, Elijah posed a question that no doubt pricked the people’s consciences. Elijah asked, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
Would it be too much of a stretch to rephrase Elijah’s comment to instead say, “How long will you remain double-minded?”
Elijah was making it unmistakably clear that the Israelites could not straddle the fence and expect blessings from the true God. “Well, the prophets were sincere and worshipped in the way their hearts led them,” someone might say. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t cut it. God alone is to be obeyed, and He is to be served on His own terms.
Now, let’s move the finger from pointing at ancient Israel and begin pointing it at ourselves. Are we indecisive about which god we want to serve? Do we have one foot in the world and one foot in God’s way of life? Do we secretly love the world? Do we try and mold God into a form and shape that makes obedience easier for us? Do we add to or take away from His commandments to appear more in keeping with the times? Are we finding ourselves tied up in the knots of our conflicting desires?
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then we could be guilty of being double-minded.
So, what does God want?
How to overcome double-mindedness
In short, God wants single-mindedness.
To be single-minded is to focus exclusively on pleasing God and obeying His will. It means erasing our name, or any other belief system, from the top of our personal agenda and boldly stamping “The Will of God” in its place.
Maybe that feels like too big of a sacrifice. Maybe that means losing out on certain friends, various forms of entertainment, career opportunities or habits that we don’t want to change.
Remember James’ advice was to “cleanse” our hands and “purify” our hearts. That means we are to turn from what we’re doing and change—in other words, repent.
King David, horribly torn up about his sin with Bathsheba, sought God fervently and asked Him to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). The New International Version renders the first half of this verse “create in me a pure heart.” David desired a pure heart and a pure mind, and so he asked for it. We, too, can cry out to God to forgive us and to heal our double-mindedness—to help us become single-minded in our faithfulness to Him.
God does not change (Malachi 3:6). He requires the same thing from us as He did from the ancient Israelites—to love only Him with every fiber in our being (Deuteronomy 6:5). We, like the Israelites, need to choose to do that.
Never let the simple words of Elijah stop ringing in your minds: “If the LORD is God, follow Him.”
To learn more about the example of Elijah, read about “Elijah the Prophet.”