Photo Credit: Craig McCourt

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5.6

This passage is taken from the famous sermon on the mount. Matthew 5.6 is just one of the nine blessings mentioned by Jesus. I am curious about the words chosen, hunger and thirst. Two words that the original listeners, and readers should be able to relate to. Food and water are necessities of life, without them we would die. Jesus uses the conceptions of food and water elsewhere. (Matthew 4.4; John 6.33,25,48; John 4.14,15; 6.35;7.37) I don’t want to get bogged down with the other passages, I only want to show that Jesus continued to make reference of our physical need of food and water metaphorically identifying Himself as the answer. He puts a spiritual spin on what we can relate to; everyone can understand what it means to hunger and thirst.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness? A person must recognize that he is hungry and thirsty. This is not difficult to recognize because the body alerts a person when there is a shortage. And since this is true, we must recognize that in order to meet this physical need, food and water is essential. Sometimes we may not be extremely hungry or thirsty, but we eat and drink because it satisfies that most basic desire. Eating good food and drinking tasty beverages can also be very pleasurable, something that we enjoy, and most of us indulge ourselves much too often. But, when we are full, it is the time to stop eating and drinking. Not so with righteousness, because we will always need filling.

Don’t mistake what I am suggesting. Jesus clearly says, “they shall be filled,” I am not suggesting otherwise. For those of us who have followed Christ we are (positionally) righteous because of Christ’s work on the cross. And we cannot become any more righteous, Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, and the righteousness that we have is because of Him.

There must be a continual hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. Similar to the physical need of food and water there always comes a time when the body needs more (it doesn’t take long). The danger that we face is self-righteousness; which occurs when we begin to think that we are full, better than others, and that we have it all figured out. And then we become full of ourselves and Christ is forgotten. We can begin to feel pleased with ourselves, our spirituality, and less about Jesus. Self-righteousness needs to be replaced with the righteousness of Christ. And since we are naturally hungry and thirsty for self-gratification and the need to be better than others, we must remain hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of Christ. We shall be filled, but not if we allow ourselves to hunger and thirst for the wrong thing. Acting self-righteous is like trying to quench our thirst with salt water, it will lead to self-destruction.