James 4:4-8 4 You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[c]
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
I was blessed in high school to have a part-time job at the Post Office. Several of my classmates worked there as well. One in particular stood out when I read this passage. I’ll call him Jack since he actually became rather famous. Jack worked the loading dock which was hands down the toughest assignment at the Post Office. Eighteen wheelers, nick named “pigs” would come in packed with hundreds of hundred pound canvas bags stuffed with mail that had to be unloaded and then reloaded on a tight schedule. Jack was a pretty average guy. He was a hard worker and, like many of us, had thoughts of perhaps sticking with the Post Office after graduation, if we were lucky.
The summer before our senior year Jack went from 5’8 to 6’3 and lifting those heavy bags in those hot trucks changed him physically overnight. Suddenly thoughts of working full time at the Post Office changed to going to college on an athletic scholarship at a small local college. In college, Jack blossomed in more ways than one. He became a star athlete and at the same time, much to the disappointment of his Mom, a drug dealer. Jack used the drug money to finance a college lifestyle that we regular guys could only dream about. I have to admit there was envy in my heart back then, but I told myself that the lifestyle would catch up with him sooner or later.
As it turned out it was much much later. Jack didn’t finish school but he beat the odds, signing a multimillion dollar professional contact and becoming a wealthy celebrity at a very young age. Needless to say he aggressively embraced the lifestyle and the more successful he became the more reckless he became. Ultimately it all came crashing down and Jack ended up addicted to drugs, serving a lengthy prison sentence, and penniless.
Years later he would say that when he was on top there was nothing he couldn’t do or have and he wanted it all. But when it was gone he was stunned at how quickly the doors slammed shut, and he would add, deservedly so. But Jack’s story doesn’t end with him face down in the gutter. In fact he would tell you that’s where it began. It was there that Jack finally turned to the only door that had never closed. That door led him to the cross, to forgiveness, to redemption. Slowly he began to rebuild his life, no longer in the fast lane, no longer part of the illusionary world described in today’s passage that he formerly held to so tightly. Today Jack is once again a multimillionaire. But you would never know it if you met him. His time and money are volunteered and donated to showing people that door, the door that never closed on him. He would be the first person to tell you just how wonderful it is that our GOD is so very jealous!
Great FATHER of the universe, we thank and praise YOU today knowing that YOUR door is always open and that no matter what we do, we cannot out sin YOUR grace and forgiveness. Thank you for loving us enough to be jealous! In CHRIST name we pray, amen!