Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James now gives us some very specific instructions. These instructions appear to be both for the believer and for the unbeliever as well. We can ascertain this based on the comments James makes and the words that he uses in these passages. First, we are to cleanse ourselves because we are sinners. This language brings up the images of the ceremonial washing done by the High Priests. This was part of the ritual before making sacrifices for the people on the day of atonement. We have to remember that James, who ministered in and around Jerusalem, primarily ministered to Jewish believers. Therefore, his metaphors would relate back to Jewish life and culture and that is the case in these passages. In these passages, James is speaking of cleansing ourselves through the blood of Jesus shed for us on the Cross of Calvary. And by our faith in Jesus and our acceptance of Him as our Lord, Savior and God, we become cleansed of our sins past, present and future. Moreover, God imputes or credits the righteousness of Jesus to us, because we have placed our faith in Him.
And by accepting Jesus through faith alone, we thereby accept His atoning work for us, which He completed on the Cross of Calvary. The reference to the washing of the hands generally referred to unbelievers, whereas the reference to being double-minded is a reference to Christian believers. Double-minded Christians were believers who were called so because they tried to live with one foot in the world and one foot in God’s kingdom. But in either case the command is the same, we are to cleanse ourselves through the blood of Christ by placing our faith in Him alone for salvation. And as we do so, we turn our lives over to His guidance by submitting to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our day to day lives. The laughter spoken of here is the laughter of foolishness and deliberate ignorance. James is referring to sinners who are indulging in the fulfillment of their desires, giving in to their lust, while seeking after a fallen world and purposely pretending to be ignorant of God and His presence. James paints a very critical picture of rebellion, because he paints the picture of people laughing as they purposely commit sin, in direct sight of God and His holy angels. And James says of such people, let their laughter be turned into mourning and lamenting, that is to say let their laughter be turned into repentance and weeping.