Wash Your Hands!

Ed Miskovic, Volunteer Writer, Huntley | May 31, 2024

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 
James 4:7–9

In March 2020, Coronavirus threatened our Illinois cities, towns, and neighborhoods.  A reported 10,030 died from the virus by November. The health department guidelines urged us to wash our hands frequently to avoid contagion. We ventured to the grocery store to buy hand sanitizer. My wife was wearing her cloth mask inside our car. A pick-up truck pulled next to her. The driver stared, “Hey lady. Take off that mask!” 

Nowhere seemed safe.

The store shelves of essentials were nearly empty. I spied a plastic squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer. I grabbed it and put it in the cart. An elderly customer gazed at the empty shelf in disappointment. I looked away. At least we could sanitize our hands, I rationalized. I was double-minded—love of neighbor versus self-preservation.

In the Book of James, he urges, with the authority of a health department during the pandemic, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8b). His exhortation to wash hands is a figure of speech, a metaphor. So, how do we wash in order to purify our hearts? James tells us to, “Grieve, mourn, and wail” (v. 9). James also tells us to “go near to God and he will come near to you” (v. 8). So what does this look like? 

The apostle Peter is a good example for us. He weeps bitterly after denying three times that he knows Christ (Matthew 26:69–75) and reconciles with Jesus after the resurrection. For us, like Peter, when the Spirit shows us that we are denying who God has called us to be by exhibiting qualities like overconfidence, arrogance, or self-righteousness, we can repent, asking for His forgiveness and help to do better, and then like Peter, move on from there. Accept forgiveness from God and from yourself, and knowing you are washed clean, freely get on with your purpose as Peter did.

James asks us to be unwavering in our submission to God. Christ models another way to avoid being double-minded. At Gethsemane, He prays, “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Matthew 26:39).

Next Steps

Ask God’s Holy Spirit to bring to mind any ways you may be living double-mindedly.  Ask for forgiveness.  Take time to memorize scripture verses or write them down to refer to regularly. This helps prepare you for times when you feel separated from God. Consider James 4:7-9, John 20:28, and Matthew 26:75.