The Man with Two Souls

James 1:7-8


From Faith, Love & Hope: An Exposition of the Epistle of James, AMG Publishers, 1997.

"For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:7-8).

James knew that the Christian of his day was full of misconceptions as to what God was expected to do for him. We, too, I am afraid, are full of such misconceptions. One of these is the idea that once we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and become the children of God, He is under obligation to give us whatever we ask of Him. That is not so, declares James. "For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."

Who is the man to whom James is referring? He is the man described in the previous verse, the man who is torn asunder with doubts as to God's ability to give him victory in life and as to whether God's way is after all the best way. James speaks of such a man with great disdain. There he is! He comes to a liberal God doubtingly and then has the audacity to expect something from God. Let him not even think or suppose or imagine that he will receive anything.

The word "anything" cannot, of course, mean the ordinary things of life, such as food and clothing, but rather those things of which James spoke previously-joy, patience, perfection, maturity, and wisdom. He speaks of the attitudes and dispositions of the heart that are so important in facing life's trials and temptations. It is these attitudes which treat trials as opportunities and calamities as occasions for valor.

There are two possible results when a person discovers his prayers are not answered. One is to blame God for it, and the other is to ask himself whether his request is in the will of God. One day a lady was giving her little nephew some lessons. He was generally a good, attentive child, but on this occasion he could not fix his mind on his work. Suddenly he said, "Auntie, may I kneel down and ask God to help me find my marble?" His aunt gave her consent, and the little boy knelt by his chair, closed his eyes, and prayed silently. The next day, almost afraid to ask the question lest the child had not found his toy and so might lose his simple faith, the lady said to him, "Well, dear, have you found your marble?" "No, Auntie," was the reply, "but God made me not want to."

That is the way God many times answers our prayers and thus rids us of the division within ourselves. The struggle between His will and ours ceases, for our will gets lost in His. We cannot always expect what we ask for, but we can expect a change in our own desire, and when that happens we shall see that everything we ask for will be in faith, and since it will be in full accordance with His will, it will be given to us. What a glorious truth is hidden in this wonderful verse.

But let me go on to our next verse, which in the King James Version reads: A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." It is interesting that in the original Greek there is no verb at all in this verse. Many times the verb "is," is understood in Greek. But I believe it should be understood at the beginning of the verse rather than in the middle. Referring back to the description of the doubting man who is like the sea wave tossed and driven by the wind, James gives a further characterization. He says that he is "double-minded" and that he "is unstable in all his ways." Of course, it follows naturally that the double-minded man is unstable, but both of these characterizations refer to the doubter in prayer.

The word translated "double-minded" in Greek is dpsuchos,which means "the one who has two souls." One personality, but two souls-this describes the person who behaves in two diametrically opposite ways, according to what is expedient. Do you realize that you can be a Christian and be that way? God pity you if you are, however. A woman, enlarging on her husband's peculiar changefulness, said, "At a theologically Liberal meeting he's a Liberal, and at a Conservative meeting he's a Conservative." Someone asked, "But what is he at home?'' She replied with emphasis, "He's a perfect demon!" This man James endeavors to describe is commonly known as a hypocrite, a man with two souls using either one at will, but let him be careful lest he be found not to have a soul at all.

Aesop, probably the most renowned writer of myths, speaks in one of his fables about a time when the beasts and the fowls were engaged in war. The bat tried to belong to both parties. When the birds were victorious, he would wing around telling everyone that he was a bird; when the beasts won a fight, he would walk around assuring everyone that he was a beast. But soon his hypocrisy was discovered, and he was rejected by both the beasts and the birds. He had to hide himself, and now he can appear openly only by night. You cannot hold onto the world with one hand and on to the Lord with the other. If you do, you will enjoy neither the world nor the Lord.

A house divided against itself cannot stand, was the verdict of the Master, and that is exactly what James reaffirms here.

The next characterization of the man is that he is "unstable in all his ways." The Greek word translated "unstable" comes from a compound verb which means "one who is never able to settle down." Have you ever met a person like that? He never makes up his mind. It is only natural, therefore, that he is never settled in his physical self, either. I know someone like that. He has no family, he has no home life, he has nobody but himself to live with. Every time he decides to get married, he will fearfully look into the future and be afraid and change his mind. Because he is a double-minded man, he not only hurts himself but also some dear soul whom he deprives of companionship.

Resolve to stand on solid ground. Determine what you are going to do, and do it without fear. Remember that "underneath are the everlasting arms."

Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009) served as president of AMG International for over 40 years, was the founding editor of Pulpit Helps Magazine (Disciple's predecessor), and authored dozens of exegetical books.

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