“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”
The first four beatitudes reveal a spiritual progression for the Christian. Each one leads on to the succeeding one from the platform of the previous one. The starting point is the acknowledgement of our complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God – blessed are the poor in spirit. Then comes the mourning over our sins, as well as over our own fallen nature, together with the fallen state of the world with its reign of sin and death – blessed are those who mourn. The third state of meekness is due to our acknowledged spiritual poverty and imperfection and for it to affect our behaviour towards God and others – blessed are the meek.
Now Jesus leads us further as He directs us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is to be the characteristic of all God’s people. They are not to look only into themselves and regret what they see – they are also to see the sin and its related horrors around them. These would include the violence and abuse, the poverty and degradation, the stunted lives and spirits, and the rejection and apathy towards God. They should lead us to long for healing, change and justice. But even more, just as these are the symptoms of something far deeper, we should deeply long for the light of God to enter the lives of both victims and perpetrators, with the same urgent pain as that of a person desperately in need of food and water – as Jesus did upon the cross. So strong would that hunger and thirst become that we would look at a situation of need or evil and say, ‘that is totally unacceptable’ and do something.
It is a part of this new state of the Christian that, unlike the world with its ceaseless pursuit of power, possessions and pleasure, their focus becomes that of ‘seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’ It would include living for the realisation of the prayer Jesus taught us – that God’s name be treasured and glorified, God’s kingdom be established and recognised and that God’s will be recognised and fulfilled, here on earth as it is already in heaven – and starting with and in us. This righteousness then is a righteousness of people’s relationship with God as well as a righteousness of their character and conduct before Him.
Clearly it is not enough for us to mourn over past sin – we must also hunger and thirst for future righteousness in both our own lives and in the lives of those around us. This will be revealed in an increasing desire to be free from sin, to be free from the power of sin and to be free from the very desire for sin. In fact it becomes a longing to be holy and as close as possible to the model and character of Jesus Himself, as we reveal the fruit of the Spirit in thought, word and deed.
The starting point as always is prayer. Firstly, that God would develop that hunger and thirst within us – seeing that is what He wants – and direct it towards particular situations wherever they may be. Secondly, for the people or situations concerned – and to persevere in prayer for as long as it takes. Thirdly, to ask God what He wants us to do, and in some cases just to do the obvious. It’s about caring enough to act – because God cares and He acted. Luther put it this way,
The command to you is not to crawl into a corner or into the desert, but to run out, if that is where you have been. And to offer your hands and feet and your whole body, and to wager everything you have and can do…….If you cannot make the world completely pious, then do what you can.’
And ‘they will be filled.’ This is not because, like the world, they seek happiness or even blessedness. These will not be found by themselves – instead the happy/ blessed state comes from seeking after what God wants for us, in this case righteousness.
Do not be friends with, or luke-warm about, sin and evil
Lord, please help me to live fully as Your child. Amen