The James Paradox


If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-8 (NIV)

It seems the one thing we can’t ask for in prayer is help with a divided soul. The doubter is told up front, “Don’t bother.” The unstable aren’t eligible for answers. Being uncertain or undecided disqualifies one from divine assistance. And James isn’t alone in warning of the dangers of doubt: Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; Luke 11:18; Acts 10:20; Romans 2:4; 4:20; 14:23.

The Greek for, “not doubt” (mhden diakrinomeno) is the present passive participle of diakrinw, which means “to discriminate” and has the idea of being “divided against oneself.” Hence the charge of being “double-minded,” literally “double-souled.”

I could see the restriction applying to unbelief, a settled conviction that God doesn’t exist or isn’t interested in his creation. But honest doubt or unresolved questions?

What am I missing here?

What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “The James Paradox

  1. I guess it depends on what you’re doubting. If you have doubts about whether God will give wisdom, I think that’s where the double-minded thing comes in. Not all doubts are bad, just doubting God’s promise to give wisdom.

  2. We just had a sermon about doubt and the conclusion was, God meets us in our deepest quest to know him better. I believe, and I am no scholar, that to doubt causes a disturbance in our basic knowledge of Him and causes us to dig deeper, in the process we are like one tossed around and it seems that until we have settled that within that we are unstable. You have to balance what it says with what it says throughout the whole bible about our acceptance and coming to Him with all our failings and frailties. I had a friend who took that verse and beat himself up with it because he was severely depressed. It’s easy to get hung up if you don’t look at the whole picture. That’s my thought anyway.

  3. 1. Just as I am, without one plea,
    but that thy blood was shed for me,
    and that thou bidst me come to thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    2. Just as I am, and waiting not
    to rid my soul of one dark blot,
    to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    3. Just as I am, though tossed about
    with many a conflict, many a doubt,
    fightings within, and fears without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    4. Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
    wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
    because thy promise I believe,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

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