In the grand scheme of life, there are certain must-haves; air and breath, water, food, sleep, proper warmth, and the expulsion of waste. Life ends when any of these are denied for a sufficient length of time. We may think that other things should be added to that list like chocolate, coffee, a new dress, or anything else that we dramatically declare “I’ll die if I don’t get…” As much as we’d like to add to the list of base needs, that list really never changes. So, that should tell us something when Jesus declared “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6, NASB95)
To unpack what Jesus is saying it is necessary to understand righteousness. None of us are righteous before God on our own merits. We cannot satisfy the demands of God’s justice on our own or through our own effort. The only way that we may stand before God’s throne is through the enveloping righteousness of Jesus Christ. So, in one sense, Jesus’ promise is for those who hunger and thirst for their unrighteousness to be covered by Christ’s righteousness. Call it new life, salvation, or being born again, the promise is that those who humbly accept Jesus are satisfied.
There is also a second way to look at righteousness and Jesus’ promise. Righteousness is wrapped up in God’s perfect justice. Or, to pull the thread just a little bit more, God’s righteous rule and reign. Jesus instructed us to pray “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, NASB95) This hunger desires God’s kingdom and justice to rule in ourselves and in the world around us just like it does in heaven.
These two views of righteousness are not either/or but both together. Many accept Jesus’ righteousness but fail to seek His reign and rule in their lives. The other extreme is rarer but still happens whenever grace, mercy, and love are replaced with legalism. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness always begins with ourselves accepting Jesus as our righteousness and seeking after His rule in our lives out of love. It’s like we are asking God, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, in my heart, in my life just as it is in heaven.” That then extends to the family and to all of the areas which our lives touch.
The promise is that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. Their needs will be filled. I think that this is wonderfully portrayed in the opening verses of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:1–2, NASB95) We can run all over the place trying to fulfill the aching need of our heart. Trying to satisfy our hunger and appetites our own way. It’s like someone filling up with candy and snacks when they could be enjoying a full course meal. But God has given us a shepherd, someone who will lead and guide us to green grass and still water if we will only follow.
What are you hungry for? What will truly satisfy the ache in your heart? Would you rather live life by your own rules or do you hunger and thirst for God’s reign in your life? This is not a question of whether we add religion and church to our lives. Jesus placed righteousness with the basic needs of life, without it we will die. It’s that important. It’s that central. Well, what are you hungry for?