8b Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Have you noticed that here James calls his readers “sinners” and “double minded”? Who are they?
Among those who are gathered in the churches of Jesus Christ, there are those who continue to entangle themselves with sin. Sinners are those who transgress the righteous laws of God, and conduct themselves in a manner that is displeasing to God. The word “double minded” refers to those who are fickle-minded and unstable in their faith and devotion to God. The double-minded are those who vacillate between God and the world. Here James calls them all to repentance.
He tells them to “cleanse your hands” and “purify your hearts”. Both “cleanse ”and “purify” are verbs that refer to ceremonial cleansing, a figure that spoke eloquently to Jewish as well as Gentile converts. Those words remind them of the need to put away their sins before they approach God, who is pure and holy. The words “hands” and “hearts” point them to their actions and affections. It is an indispensable requisite that we cease from our sinful actions and passions when we draw nigh unto God.
So David said, “I will wash mine hands in innocency; so will I compass thine altar, O LORD” (Psalm 26:6). The apostle Paul directs us in 1 Timothy 2:8, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” We must cease from everything unjust or cruel, and be free from the defilement of sin. He who serves the Lord cannot be a servant of sin. The worshippers of God must be purehearted, i.e. sincere and single-minded to please God. They must cease from everything worldly, carnal and displeasing to God.
It is hypocrisy to come to God with hands and hearts that are impure. Jesus cited Isaiah in Matthew 15:8-9, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me”. In Matthew 23, Jesus repeatedly condemned the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. He did not mince His words: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He then rebuked them sharply, “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:26). Let us serve Him in sincerity and holiness.