The perpetual state of double-mindedness is at odds with the Christian faith. These are two different realms, so to speak, that never intersect. In short, double-mindedness is sin, and sin that needs to be put to death quickly, lest the genuineness of our faith is tested and found altogether absent. It is here that the intersect of faith and works comes into play. It is not that our works save us—but that a genuine faith will produce such works that prove that we are genuinely in Christ.
It is interesting, to say the least, that the term for “double-minded” only appears twice in Scripture, and both within the letter of James. The first occurrence deals with those who are subjected to various trials (see James 1:2-8). The point of James in this section is to encourage the faint-hearted in recognizing the purpose of such trials. Trials are akin to the testing of the genuineness of one’s faith (v.2), but what such trials produce is endurance—that quality every true Christian must have to reach the finish line and inherit the glories to come. Endurance itself produces a Christian who is “…perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” indicating that the result is a mature Christian who comports themselves under trials in such a way that they actually grow in their faith, rather than move backwards.
The extent of this double-mindedness though is not in part, but in full. Note that James says he will be unstable in all his ways. In much the same way then, the portrait of the double-minded man that James gives us is a rather bleak one. The Greek term he uses to speak of this man’s instability is ἀκατάστατος, which speaks of a never-ending state of restlessness and turmoil. He is, in other words, the epitome of what it means to be confused in all his faculties.
James is quite clear in what he is stating here: the man who is unstable in all of his ways will not come to find the wisdom which comes from above, which is “…first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (Ja. 3:8). His instability becomes a detriment to his maturity in the faith, yet ultimately, produces one who will fail under the tutelage of trials. In a very real sense, the implicit warning being given is that the double-minded man may just turn out to be the man who will not endure to the end.
This is particularly why James picks back up on this reality in v. 12 by saying, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” It should be relatively clear to the reader to understand that if one is double-minded and unstable in all his ways, and he perpetually remains in such a state, there is cause for real concern over the state of his soul. If trials produce endurance, and endurance produces a mature Christian who perseveres to the end—one who lacks such qualities may indeed prove to be of the seed which falls on rocky ground who falls away when trouble and persecution comes, or the seed which becomes choked out by the thorns of the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth (Matt. 13:20-21).