To Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
To Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
Hunger and Thirst
Jesus put these two terms together, probably indicating something that we yearn for with all our being. We do not just hunger, we equally thirst; it is what we pursue with all our might. Such would be what we throw ourselves into it, and this quest takes precedence over everything else. The word “hungering” means the idea of pinching toil; to pine; to famish, and to crave. To crave ardently, to seek with eager desire, this is a passionate hunger. Such is far more than the person who just wants a nibble, but rather this is the person who is starving.
Observe that the promise of being “filled” is conditional. Only those who pursue righteousness as a passion will end up full or satisfied. This means that pursuing God now and then, here and there; hot at one moment and cold at the next will only end in disappointment. Not merely a disappointment at the judgment, but disappointment in this life as well. Unless I pursue God, His truth, and holiness with a passion, I will end up not enjoying my walk as a Christian. I know that the Laodiceans were content and satisfied in their spiritual lukewarm condition (Revelation 3:16-17), yet I have often seen that such a contentment does not appear last over a lifetime. Spiritual half-heartedness always seems to catch up to a person, even in this life. The blissful ignorance of former years will not prepare me for the temptations and challenges waiting in the next stage in my life. When life throws us a curve, we are not ready and have nothing to fall back upon that is sure and solid.
Jesus clarifies what should be the true object of our desires, because one can spend the entirely of one’s life hungering and thirsting after all sorts of things. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is completely within the ability of the human race, because we constantly see people putting all of themselves into far lesser goals. “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Paul spoke of Olympic athlete’s pursuing an earthly reward with all their being (1 Corinthians 9:25). Jesus gave a parable concerning a buyer of pearls, who when he found the one great pearl was instantly willing to liquidate every other pearl he owned, in fact the text says that he sold “all that he had”, to joyfully purchase it (Matthew 13:45). One can also throw their entire being into pursing sin:
- “Indulging in the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3).
- “When will the new moon be over, so that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales” (Amos 8:5).
In the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus pointed out the sad fact that often people who are unbelievers will put far more effort and forethought into pursuing some earthly goal or reward than some believers put forth in pursuing a relationship with God and eternal life. “For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).
We Have Seen This Hungering Before
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1).
“The simile of the deer (hart) expresses the intense yearning for a taste of God’s presence. The deer looks until it finds water and quenches its thirst with great joy. So the psalmist longs for God’s presence with his whole being (soul)” (Psalms, Gaebelein, p. 331). In this Psalm, appearing before God meant returning to the temple on Mount Zion, and worshipping God. Every Israelite male was required to go to Jerusalem three times a year for the major festivals (Exodus 23:17), and this evidently the writer was unable to do. In addition, he apparently was one of the sons of Korah (a Levite) (note the title of the Psalm), and was unable to perform his tasks at the temple. Some writers suggest that this psalm was written by a Levite who was being taken into captivity. “This area (Mount Hermon) (42:6) is pretty far from Jerusalem, and some writers have suggested that if a traveler (or captive, which the author could be) was headed east in the direction of Babylon, this is the last point from which he might glimpse the familiar mountains of his homeland to the south” (Psalms, Boice, p. 367).
What is Your Consuming Desire? What is Mine?
Observe the present participles (hungering and thirsting), which stresses that the person who will end up saved is the person who keeps on hungering after God and His truth. “Jesus here challenges our real desire for goodness. ‘Are you intensely and sharply pained by your need for true righteousness that you would die unless you get it? Just how badly do you want to be righteous?’ Such questions criticize our satisfaction with partial goodness, halfway accomplishment, and partly kept promises to be good. Jesus cannot leave men in peace if He is to convert them” (Gospel of Matthew, Fowler, p. 215).
When one is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, one realizes:
- Just being a good moral person is not enough.
- God’s standards cannot be compromised, for His truth is our only guide to eternal life.
- Any issue that God has addressed is a big issue. This means that when one is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, one does not neglect public worship, and neither does one try to see how close one can get to sin or error without sinning.
- In this sermon Jesus reveals that God’s standard of righteousness goes far beyond just outward conformity (Matthew 5:20ff), but includes inward purity (5:28) and right dealing in our relationships. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness will include hungering after meeting God’s expectations as a husband, wife or parent (5:32).
- It also includes putting the things of God ahead of all other things and relationships (Matthew 6:33).
- This is when we view as our real treasure, the one thing we should never want to lose; our relationship with Him (6:19ff).
Shall be Filled
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:5-6) and Jesus (the Prodigal Son) both stressed the point that outside of God – life is a barren desert, a withered landscape, where men and women are depicted as dazed, empty and dying creatures. The clear warning in advance is that any attempt to fill our lives with meaning and purpose, or any attempt to feed our souls with earthly things or pursuits will end in an inner and despairing emptiness.
What an Amazing Promise
You live long enough, and you try this and that and nothing seems to ever fill you up. You start wondering if life is playing some kind of cruel joke on you, that it keeps getting your hopes up only to disappoint. Yet Jesus promised, “Shall be filled”.
The end of the Christian life is not one of disappointment or disillusionment. The person who keeps centered on God and His word will overcome all obstacles, will find the answers to questions pertaining to their relationship with God, and will find fulfillment and satisfaction in serving God. “Yet in all this the values and standards of Jesus are in direct conflict with the commonly accepted values and standards of the world. The world judges the rich to be blessed, not the poor, whether in the material or in the spiritual sphere; the happy-go-lucky and carefree, not those who take evil so seriously that they mourn over it; the strong and brash, not the meek and gentle; the full not the hungry; those who mind their own business, not those who meddle in other men's matters and occupy their time in do-goodery like ‘showing mercy’ and ‘making peace’; those who attain their ends even if necessary by devious means, not the pure in heart who refuse to compromise their integrity; those who are secure and popular, and live at ease, not those who have to suffer persecution… With every beatitude, the gulf is widened between the disciples and the people, and their call to come forth from the people becomes increasingly manifest” (Christian Counter Culture, John Stott, pp. 54, 55).
So, do I want to be finally filled or just left empty, not only in this life, but for eternity as well?
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017