Being of Two Spirits
Published Aug. 2, 2012 @ 6 a.m.
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. 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. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8)
We have begun getting ready for the next Epiphany in the Garza County Juvenile Correction Unit. Each meeting includes a discussion of this passage from James. We especially thought about what it meant to say that a person cannot “doubt” and what it meant to be “double-minded.” I thought you might like to hear a little bit about that discussion.
Greek word that is usually translated “double-minded” literal means being of two spirits. This is a particularly powerful term in the New Testament. In the world-view of the New Testament there are spiritual powers at work in this world. The prince of this world is the Satan (the name literally means “prosecutor”). These forces are diametrically opposed to the spirit of God.
The New Testament Christian community made a huge deal of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It was part of their Christian experience to know the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. This was such a powerful reality to early Christians that Paul could ask the Galatians how they had received the Spirit; by the law of Moses or through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul did not ask if they had the Spirit. That was a given and known experience throughout the New Testament Church.
As the Church became more institutionalized under bishops and clergy orders the body of teaching that is called doctrine became more important and we began to be more concerned about law than about the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Many expressions of the presence of the Holy Spirit; especially prophecy, became frowned upon because they challenged the bishops authority.
Today, when we talk about the presence of God’s Holy Spirit many Christians still think of the doctrinal teachings about the Spirit. They cannot point to any experiential knowledge of God’s Holy Spirit changing who they are. Therefore, we have lost some of the meaning of being “two-spirited.” We are not conscious of two spirits being present within us vying for our loyalty. But the original readers of James’ Gospel would have understood that James was not talking just about being undecided. James was talking about whether we had faith enough in God to push forward in the directions that wisdom lead us believing in God’s provision.
One way at looking at what James is talking about is to say that we jump in with both feet. Once we have decided to ask for wisdom, whichever way God is leading us we have to go that way. We cannot keep one foot back across the line just in case. We have to jump in with both feet. Indeed, real faith in Jesus Christ is jumping in with both feet.
In fact, if you look at the rest of the book of James it is really an encouragement to live a life that is not “two-spirited.” This includes living by the Word of God, treating the poor as truly family in the Lord, not showing favoritism to someone just because they are wealthy, being able to bridle you tongue, and waiting patiently for God’s work to be accomplished in us. All of this begins with the willingness to jump into the work of God with both feet.
I once heard a preacher talking about faith using this illustration. He accepted the invitation of a friend to go sailing in the ocean. He had always heard it was fun so he was pretty disappointed as the owner of the sailboat started the little outboard engine maneuvering the sail boat out of the sound in which it was moored and into the open ocean. That took a while and the trip was pleasant enough but it wasn’t pleasurable or exciting. Even out on the ocean it wasn’t clear why people loved sailing so much. But then the boat’s captain brought the sailboat into the wind with full sail. The sailboat came up on edge and the crew had to don their harnesses and stand with their entire bodies outside the boat to keep the boat upright that all of the sudden the sailing became an adrenaline rush.
Many Christians fail to know the excitement of truly being a Christian because we are unwilling to jump in with both feet. We may put our sails up from time to time but we are always willing to stay in the sound where the winds are not bad and we aren’t in any risk of losing anything. But where there is no risk there is no faith. And without faith we cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord. We have to be willing to trust the Lord as the captain of our boat and let everything hang out if we are going to truly see why so many millions of people have truly decided to be Christians.