“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
In verse 5 James exhorts the church of God to ask wisdom of the Lord. This wisdom shall be given her for the Lord giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not. In verses 6-8, introduced by the word ‘‘but”, the holy writer sharply calls our attention to the indispensable requirement for the prayer for wisdom, namely, that we ask in faith. That we must ask this wisdom of God is plain. Wisdom is not merely a matter of the head, of the intellect. If it were, we could acquire it merely by attending school and in the measure that we diligently apply ourselves to our studies. Wisdom, however, is spiritual. And inasmuch as it is a spiritual matter it must be granted us continuously which implies that we must constantly ask it of the Lord. Besides, we are by nature not wise but foolish. We are of the earth earthy, not only physically but also spiritually. By nature we hate God and love sin and the things of this world. The child of God, who has become wise in principle, and is therefore fully aware of the foolishness which characterizes him as he is by nature and continues to remain with him until the day of his death, understands fully the words of James: Let him ask for wisdom of God and it shall be given him.
However, we must ask in faith. The word “but” serves to bring out a sharp distinction. Not all who pray for wisdom shall receive it of the Lord. We must pray in faith. The word “but” forcibly reminds us of the fact that faith is an absolutely necessary requisite for our prayer for and receiving of wisdom.
James speaks in verse 6 of “a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed”, and in verse 8 of “a double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways.” We understand that these two expressions refer to each other. The one is a figure of the other. A wavering person, one that doubts, is, according to James, a double minded person. And even as a wave of the sea is driven with the wind and tossed, so also such a double minded man is unstable, unsteady in all his ways. Literally we do not read, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways”, but, “A double minded unstable in all his ways.” In other words, this man who asks not in faith is that double minded man who is unstable in all his ways. This double minded man must not think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.
First of all, James speaks in this portion of Holy Writ of a double minded man, verse 8. Wavering or doubting is contrasted in this text with faith. According to James, therefore, anyone who doubts is really a double minded man. The expression ‘‘double minded” of verse 8 means literally “two-souled.” A double minded man has two souls. Fundamentally, we understand, this is impossible. It is true that there are two opposing forces in the child of God, the operation of light and that of darkness. Romans 7 clearly teaches us this truth. But this does not render a man “two- souled.” The child of God shall cleave to the one and hate the other. This is principally always his struggle. Loving in principle not only some but all the commandments of the Lord, he must continually cope with the forces of evil and darkness which remain in him until the day of his death. What is possible, however, is that one may try to serve two masters, would fain cleave to both, and in that sense have two souls, would personally live from two principles. Such an one appears, then, to have two hearts, two centers, two minds, two wills. He always sees double, hears double, seeks double. He would love the light but also the darkness, grace but also sin, righteousness but also unrighteousness, Christ but also Belial, God but also Mammon. Such a person would be a friend of God but also of the world. He attends Divine service regularly, participates in all congregational activities, but also seems to enjoy himself in the midst of the world. This double minded man is in a very pitiable condition. He may be a child of God who has wandered far from the path of God’s covenant, and he has indeed wandered far from the way of God’s’ covenant and precepts. He may also be one who never knew the grace of God, but, belonging to the church of God according to her development in the midst of the world, merely appears as a child of God and apparently walks from two principles of life,
This man is unstable in all his ways. He is as a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. In his walk he is unsteady, tossed to and fro, does the most unheard of things. He is at home apparently among the children of the living God but seems to feel himself equally at home among those who know not the fear of the Lord. He never pursues a steady course, one never knows what he will do, whether he will turn to the right or to the left. He is a spiritual drunkard.
Our present time is characterized by many of these spiritual drunkards. On the one hand, they are spiritual, extraordinarily spiritual. They can almost always be recognized by their exceptional piety. None is more regular at church attendance and none is more faithful in the performance of their church duties and obligations. They can be exceptionally jealous for mission work, would save the world if possible, although they are not always particularly concerned with deplorable conditions at home, such as ignorance concerning the truth of God’s Word. On the other hand, these people are also worldly. You probably imagine them to be very pious and are amazed to find them in the very midst of the world. They are spiritual drunkards. James likens them unto a wave of the sea as it is driven and tossed to and fro. You never know what to expect of these double minded persons. They would live from two opposing principles of life.
Such an one, writes James, must not think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. One might ask the question whether these persons actually pray for wisdom, or how it can be possible that they pray for wisdom. Fact is, these double minded men also pray for wisdom. They, too, appear in the assemblies of the people of God or pray because of custom or habit. It is also customary for them to open and close with prayer at their meals ( of course, in their own homes), and to close with prayer when asked to do so at public meetings, such as school or church gatherings. And they pray for wisdom. Of course! They would not dare to mention anything else in their prayer. They pray, then, that they may be the people of the living God and conduct themselves accordingly in the midst of the world. They ask the Lord for His grace and Spirit to fight the good fight of faith even unto the end, to reject Egypt and the glories of Egypt for the heavenly treasures which are above. They ask the Lord to bless them in the day which lies ahead and they implore His mercy in order that they may walk as children of the light in the midst of a world which lieth in sin and darkness. We always pray for these things, also the double minded man. He would not dare to mention anything else in his petitions.
Such a petitioner will receive nothing. We must ask in faith, writes James, nothing wavering or doubting. A doubter is a double minded man and vice versa. First of all, he really doubts whether he earnestly desires what he asks. The word that is translated “wavering” means literally “to be at variance, in conflict with oneself.” These doubters pray for wisdom, for the fear of God, that the Lord may lead them not into temptation, that they may be His party here below. But in their prayer they are actually at variance with themselves. They are afraid that the Lord will grant them the things they request. They probably consider it convenient to be able to do both: be the party of the living God and seek the things which are below. In reality they are of the world. And it is a fact that they really seek the world. They pray for wisdom but actually they do not desire it. Hence, they are at variance with themselves. Secondly, they doubt that God will give them their request and know that their prayer will not receive an answer. Also in this respect they differ with themselves. They petition the Lord to give them His grace. But in their hearts they realize that their prayer is mockery and that Jehovah does not listen to their supplication.
Such a man, writes James, will not receive anything of the Lord. Of course not. Jehovah will not be mocked. He delighteth not in hypocrisy and iniquity. He is far from such prayers. And it is really a terrible thing to pray the Lord for His guidance and blessing when one has determined to seek the things which are below. This is a terrible thing not only because we then are hypocritical in our prayer. But it is surely terrible to ask the holy and righteous God to accompany us in such ways of evil and ask His blessing to be upon us in paths of sin. It is the evil of tempting God, to entice Jehovah that He forsake His holiness and walk with us in the way of iniquity and sin.
We must ask in faith. Faith is the living, spiritual bond which unites us with God in Christ Jesus. By faith we are united with Christ and become one plant with Him. And by faith, which is the Spiritual knowledge and a hearty confidence, we also draw our spiritual life’s sap out of the Christ, and so live out of Him. To pray in faith means that we pray in the sphere of faith. This implies that our prayers must be rooted in faith and that we therefore actually seek and desire the things we petition. United with Christ and having been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light we will desire wisdom, that spiritual fruit of grace whereby we seek the things above and view the present in the light of the hereafter. Such a prayer will also be in harmony with the will of God. It will be delivered of all worldly and carnal lusts, will seek the glory of the living God, and will be concentrated in the desire to be the party of the Most High and that according to our place and calling which Jehovah has sovereignly willed for us in the midst of the world. In that faith we must stand. Prompted by that faith we must pray. This prayer will be heard and the Lord will grant us wisdom. For He giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.