“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6)
As we approach Jesus’ fourth teaching to his disciples, it is important for us to understand the weight behind his words in order to fully savour His promises. We tend to think of righteousness as moral behaviour, virtuous living or standing up for justice. However, the Bible defines righteousness as a right relationship with God and with other people (Psalm 1:1-2). It is often contrasted with wickedness, the conduct of those who disregard God and disrespect men.
It doesn’t take long for us to look around and realise that this seems to be the holistic state of the world we live in. Our media is continually flooded with reports of criminal activity, social oppression, and corruption. Those hearing this in Jesus’ time would have also been familiar with such injustice, as they were subjugated under the harsh rule of the Roman Empire and long awaiting God’s promised deliverer. Jesus delivers this blessing as more than mere teaching – it is a hopeful assurance for the desperate longing of our hearts.
It is quite fitting that Jesus employs the analogy of our hunger and thirst to illustrate the longing for righteousness in this world. When one is hungry, it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the need to eat; almost painful to watch others do so.
Yet so often, our longings in this world are unfulfilled. Our search for true justice and righteousness returns to us empty and even when we do find solace, it is fleeting. Renowned British writer C.S Lewis acknowledges this discontentment, saying “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” The Bible affirms the broken state of the world and attributes it to sin – our rejection of God. But our inability to see our desires met in this earthly kingdom is not to cast us down to despair but to turn our eyes in hope towards the heavenly kingdom.
When Jesus promises that “they will be filled,” he does not refer to the same temporary quenching we receive only to grow thirsty again. Instead, he offers to fully satisfy our desires so that they disappear altogether! Jesus says to his followers, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:13-14). He does this by dying for us on the cross, as Paul describes “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is in Christ Jesus that we find our longing for true righteousness met.
In the Old Testament, we read of King David as a figure well acquainted with the brokenness of the world and yearning to see the Lord’s swift justice. Hiding as a fugitive in the wilderness after his son Absalom’s rebellion against him, David wrote Psalm 63. He illustrates his desperation, crying out, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). David understood that not only were his enemies wicked, but he too was an unrighteous man and urgently needed God. He knew that even as he was chased by the unrighteous, God was still in control and his steadfast love rested on him.
Therefore, knowing that true righteousness is found in a right relationship with God, how should we respond? Firstly, we ourselves need to trust that our longings are met in Christ Jesus. He gives us the assurance that we will be filled, not through earthly satisfaction, but through reconciliation with God by his atoning sacrifice. This truth frees us from our culture’s attitude towards what it means to be filled and satisfied, which enables us to be truly content with the things of this world. Lastly, we have this promise given to us as a comfort for our restless hearts. When confronted with injustice, we need not respond in fear but we can confidently respond in faith. Take comfort knowing that solid joy and lasting treasure are given to those who actively seek a relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ.