The term double-minded comes from the Greek word dipsuchos, meaning “a person with two minds or souls.” It’s interesting that this word appears only in the book of James (James 1:8; 4:8). Bible scholars conclude that James might have coined this word. To grasp the full meaning of this word, it is best to understand how it is used within its context.
James writes of the doubting person that he is “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6–8). A doubter is a double-minded person. Jesus had in mind such a person when He spoke of the one who tries to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). As such, he is “unstable,” which comes from a Greek word meaning “unsteady, wavering, in both his character and feelings.”
A double-minded person is restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions, and his behavior. Such a person is always in conflict with himself. One torn by such inner conflict can never lean with confidence on God and His gracious promises. Correspondingly, the term unstable is analogous to a drunken man unable to walk a straight line, swaying one way, then another. He has no defined direction and as a result doesn’t get anywhere. Such a person is “unstable in all he does.”
Those who are double-minded do not have the faith spoken of in Hebrews 11:1, 3: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. . . . By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” We cannot be both “certain” and doubting, as is the double-minded person. One part of his mind is sure of something, while the other part doubts. It brings to mind the “pushmi-pullyu” of the Dr. Doolittle stories, an animal with a head at either end of its body and which was constantly trying to walk in two directions at once. Such is the double-minded man.
Jesus declared, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). God and the things of this world are of such opposite natures that it is impossible to love either one completely without hating the other. Those who try to love both will become unstable in all their ways. If someone struggles with being double-minded, he or she should read, study, and memorize the Word, for it is the Word of God that produces faith (Romans 10:17). And he or she should pray for faith. God freely gives what is good to those who ask Him (Luke 11:9–12), and it’s good to ask for an increase of faith (Luke 17:5; Mark 9:24).