James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
The dictionary describes a double minded person as one that is undecided in mind - a vacillating person. In Nelson's Bible Dictionary, a double minded person is literally a "two-souled" person that is divided in thinking - a person that wavers and falters between two or more opinions. Such a person is unsettled in their ways and has no direction to life. He or she is controlled by current conditions and popular opinions. Their course of conduct is continually wavering and is never constant.
What is the problem with being a double minded Christian? Why is single mindedness being taught by James in this passage? In previous verses, James teaches a lesson regarding prayer. For their prayers to be answered, James says that Christians are to ask in faith, nothing wavering (Jas. 1:6). When praying, there is to be no doubt in our minds that what we are praying for what is needed. We should not doubt that God is able to answer our prayer. The lack of faith results in prayers that God does not hear. Having one's prayers unheard by God, is only one example of the instability of a double minded Christian. Verse 8, of our lesson text, teaches that a double minded person is unstable, not only in prayer, but is unstable in all his ways.
Also, in verse 6, James teaches that we only need to observe the ocean to understand the nature of a double minded person. A wave of the ocean has no direction of its own, but depends upon the gravitational pull and wind to give it motion and direction. From this comparison, we can see that the life of a double minded person, like ocean waves, gets direction from different external sources.
Double mindedness was evident in the early Jewish Christian. Many of these accepted the gospel message of Jesus and His apostles, but were unwilling to give up Levitical rites, preferring to incorporate them into Christian worship. Much is written in the New Testament teaching us that, this double minded character of the Jewish Christian, is unscriptural. It was not possible for the Christian converted from Judaism to keep both the Old and New Testament Law. In Chapter 8, verses 6-13, the writer of Hebrews goes to great length to show the New Testament Law was a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. The better promises to faithful Christians of the New Covenant, are forgiveness of sins, and an eternal home in heaven. These divine promises were not provided in the Old Covenant, which was based on sacrifices and physical acts of worship to God.
The single minded person is influenced entirely by things divine. Heaven is the goal of the single minded Christian, and they spend their life doing those things that will help them to achieve it. On the other hand, the double minded person is the one described in Nelson's Bible Dictionary as having two souls - one, an earthly soul, and one, a heavenly soul. This double minded person wants to attain heaven but is unwilling to give up the things of the world.
James goes to great length to teach that single minded faith in God is required to be an obedient Christian. The example he uses to teach this lesson is prayer. Here the faithfulness of a Christian is tested. Verse 5 of Chapter one, tells us that God is the source of all wisdom needed by mankind. It is there for the asking. However, we must ask for it in faith, nothing wavering (Vs. 6). As taught in Verse 7, the prayers of the double minded - those that doubt God's ability, and willingness, to answer our prayers, will go unanswered, and will not receive anything of the Lord. How we pray is evidence of our stability, assurance and trust in God. From this lesson we know that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Likewise, the stability that God requires of all Christians in their conduct of life comes from single mindedness. Let your faith in God be firm, steadfast, determined - never hesitant or wavering. In so doing, you will draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.