No Two Ways About It

“Either you are or you aren’t.” Have you ever known someone who makes a decision and then changes his mind — often over and over again? Perhaps they’ve changed it so many times no one knows what they really stand for anymore. Can you imagine the inner turmoil that poor soul must be experiencing!

James, the brother of Jesus, was quite a wordsmith. He had that wonderful ability to coin new words that exactly and picturesquely capture ideas. For example, when James wants to describe a very wealthy man who visits a church service, he says the man is wearing so many rings he literally has “golden fingers” (2:2).

We’ve all heard the derogatory term “two-faced” to describe a person who says one thing and then does something else. We might say he speaks “out of both sides of his mouth” but if he sincerely means both things the problem is much deeper than that. He doesn’t know what he believes! James coined a new word for the Greek language to describe just such a person. He has “two-souls” (dipsuchos).

The word only appears twice in the New Testament and both of them are in James’ epistle (1:8; 4:8). Most of our English Bibles translate James’ new word as “double-minded” but the New Living Translation gets at the heart of the meaning by explaining this kind of person “is divided between God and the world” (James 1:8). “That man” — the person who doubts the love of God — “should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does,” (1:7 – 8). In chapter four James gives the cure for double-mindedness, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded,” (4:8). Come to a decision and stand by it!

Other early Christian writers began using James’ new word. The Shepherd of Hermas, writing in the Second Century observed, “But those who are perfect in faith make all their requests trusting in the Lord, and they receive them, because they ask unhesitatingly, without any double-mindedness. For every double-minded man, unless he repents, will scarcely be saved,” (Man. IX, 6). 

Clement of Rome, writing about the same time that John wrote Revelation, says Lot’s wife was a good example of a double-minded person. She wanted to be saved but she also wanted to be with her friends in Sodom “and as a result she became a pillar of salt to this day, that it might be known to all that those who are double-minded … fall under judgment,” (1 Clement 11.2).

So what’s it going to be for you — the clear sight of single-mindedness or the appalling confusion of double-minded indecision? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *