“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”Matthew 5:6
Have you ever known hunger, and I mean real hunger? Hunger to the point of starvation? What about thirst? Thirst to the point of gulping down gallons of water at a time? A thirst that has your throat so dry that your throat feels like sandpaper? True to form, Jesus uses imagery that takes our earthly, fleshly appetites and applies a spiritual dimension to them. In this case, He likens our natural appetite for food and drink to our spiritual appetites.
If we fill up our spirit with junk, what can you expect to experience? If we allow our minds to focus on the things of the world that corrupt our hearts and take our focus off of the heart of God, how soon do you think it will be that you find yourself wanting more of that same thing? Our appetites will dictate our actions and focus our habits. It requires a radical change in focus to shed the weight of the world.
For the past few years I have struggled with obesity due to my overindulgence in food and a laziness of intent when it comes to my diet and exercise. As a result, I’ve taken on far too much weight and it has led to higher blood pressure, problems with my feet and knees, various aches and pains, difficulty with simple tasks like putting on my shoes. And it’s not like I ballooned in weight overnight. It took a few years of disregard for my physical condition for me to realize that things had gotten out of control. But that is changing, but just as the weight didn’t come on overnight, it won’t go away overnight either. It will only happen through discipline and a radical change of habits.
In a lot of ways, our spiritual lives are much the same way. When we become lazy in our spiritual diets, eventually our hearts become so bloated with doubt, bitterness, anger, spitefulness, judgement, and self-centeredness. We allow people in our lives to influence our decision-making more than we allow the word of God. We allow our forms of entertainment to saturate our vision and hearing and lead our attention to desire more of the same. We find overindulge in drunkenness to the point that our lives become a blur. And it begins with incremental compromises in our hearts that turn our spiritual hunger and thirst to things that are not characteristic of righteousness.
The hunger and thirst that Jesus refers to here is a hunger to the point of starvation and a thirst to the point that your life feels dry and empty without the righteousness of God in your heart. It is a seeking after the heart of God with ever fiber of our heart, mind, soul, and body. Later in this same sermon, Jesus goes on to say “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) The emphasis and impetus is not on our own righteousness and our deeds, but on His righteousness and what He has done in our lives.
The Psalmist writes
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,Psalm 14:2-3
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
And you may say to yourself, “But I am a good person. I’m better than that guy. I’m not a murderer. I’m a relatively honest person.” By what standard do you comparing your righteousness? By the world’s standard that shifts with the sands of time? Or by the solid rock of God’s standard that is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)? And if nobody is capable of achieving God’s standard in this world, then how can we receive God’s righteousness. The same way that Abraham received it:
Just as Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying “In you shall all nations be blessed.”Galations 3:6-8
God Himself, by His Spirit, imparts His righteousness upon those who hunger and thirst for Him. That is how we are satisfied. When we seek to know Him and be obedient to Him, our lives become saturated with definition and hope and peace. We experience love, joy, and grace in a new way as our hearts become broken for the things that break His. When we feed on a steady diet of His word, exercise its dictates and serve our neighbors, we shed the weight of the world and our lives become more narrowly defined. We must radically alter our spiritual habits of what we allow to consume our time and attention and intensely focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Be hungry. Be thirsty. And fill up on the word of God. Let it change your life. Then and only then will you be truly satisfied.