James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV
James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 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. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV
James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV
Greek Transliteration of James 1:8 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
aner  male individual dipsuchos  double-minded, two-spirited, vacillating akatastatos  unstable, inconstant en  preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… pas  all, any, every ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) hodos  road, route, mode, means, journey, way autos  her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)
1.8.0 Introduction to James 1:8
James completes the paragraph by painting another picture with words. He describes the man lacking faith as double-minded and unstable. In this portion of the study we will look at even more deeply into doubt as well as instability.
1.8.1 How are double-minded and unstable defined?
Lk 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Although this passage from Luke’s gospel is talking about money, the principle of double-mindedness is well expressed. Jesus says you can’t have it both ways. One who is double-minded is a person who believes they can have it both ways in spite of the Truth that they cannot.
Double-minded. The Greek transliteration is dipsuchos. This Greek word is used only twice and both times by James. It literally means double-minded, uncertain, doubting, wavering, and divided interest.
Unstable. The Greek word akatastatos is defined as unstable, inconstant, and restless.
Since each of the major translations bring these words to English the same way, it seems safe to assume they are good words for us to use in this context.
1.8.2 How does worry contribute to this instability?
Mt 6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?* Worry is a waste of time. Time wasted on fruitlessness means time not spent in obedience. The greater the worry, the greater the waste of time. The more time you waste, the less time available to obey. Excessive worry not only makes you less effectual, it can make you ineffectual to the point of being lukewarm and summarily spat out. Satan loves the worrier because they aren’t serving God, but they are slaves of their own cares.
Mt 6:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. If you are a worrier, you are given time which belongs to God and wasting it. Your mind is consumed with the world and your life and whatever else it is you worry so much about. Worry seems to have a lot to do with the development of doubt and subsequent instability which in turn leads to susceptibility to temptation, then sin, then – gulp – death. It is a wide road.
*Each of my major translations renders Mt 6:27 very differently, though the concept remains the same. For example, one version says worry and another says thought where ESV says anxious. KJV speaks of adding cubits to your stature where the other versions speak of adding hours to your life. For all you KJV fans out there, your version appears to be closest to the literal Greek on that last part of the phrase.
1.8.3 What can we expect from God if we are distracted by the world?
Jas 1:7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; It only takes a mustard seed’s worth of faith to move a mountain (because we tell it to move in faith that God will move it as we’ve asked), but without faith our requests fall on deaf ears. If doubt means we won’t receive and faith means we do receive, it only stands to reason that doubt opposes faith. Belief unites us into one body in Christ, but doubt divides us. Division causes instability. James merely reinforces this reason prayer goes unanswered by expounding in verse 8, explaining instability through doubt (double-mindedness), or if you prefer he’s explaining doubt through instability.
1.8.4 What exactly does “ways” mean?
Greek [odios], syn.: road, progress, route, journey
Jn 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” James use of the phrase “in all his ways” is the most compelling part of the passage for the argument that he speaks of a prolonged condition of doubt being the root cause of instability and unanswered prayer. We are instructed to ask God questions, seeking Him and His wisdom, so it is important not to confuse doubt (skepticism) with questioning. A question is asked when the answer isn’t known. Doubt is disbelief of the answer. A moment of doubt may be thought of as a brief reluctance to accept an answer, and in some cases this may be true. The doubt which James speaks of, however, is certainly a state of mind which permeates the conscious mind and renders their faith null. Just as an instability in a bridge will cause it to fracture and collapse, doubt causes faith to become unstable and collapse.
1.8.5 What is the remedy for the doubter?
Jn 20:27-28 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas confessed his doubt before this encounter with Jesus. Jesus responded by taking away Thomas’ excuse for doubting. Jesus commanded him to not disbelieve, but believe. Thomas then responded to Jesus in the only way that makes any sense at all. He exclaimed the divinity of Jesus and the full impact of Jesus’ identity must have struck him to the quick. I can only imagine Thomas falling to his knees in abject humility. Jesus wasn’t scolding Thomas in this encounter, rather he demonstrated incredible grace by giving Thomas the very thing he was bold enough to ask for: proof of Jesus authority, divinity, power, and mercy. In that moment Thomas came to know Jesus as his Lord. Is Jesus that real to you? Do you bow humbly before him as your Lord and Master? Yes, he is our friend. Yes, we are granted permission to cry Abba Father. But with that familiarity we must not loose perspective and forget that Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
1.8.6 Summary of James 1:5-8
In the framework of these few verses we have learned a great deal. Wisdom was a topic that could have been the subject of its own book, but the important things to remember are that true wisdom comes from God, he gives generously, and he gives without prejudice.
We learned about how to make requests of God, and about requesting wisdom in particular. This lead to discussing the chief requirement made of us when asking, and that is faith. James explains to us the nature of doubt and its impact on requests made of God, even of something as basic and as freely available as God’s wisdom.
Faith is also the single requirement of salvation (Jn 3:16), though as we will learn later in the study of James, faith is not passive and it is not an intellectual knowledge. It takes substance in the form of behaviors which are based on core beliefs and values.
Worry distracts, making it easy to doubt, doubt leads to susceptibility to temptation, temptation to desire, desire to sin, and sin to death. The vaccine for this process is faith.