Hunger & thirst for righteousness
Back Up Next

Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

from Nicky Gumbel:

Hunger and thirst are words that most of us in the West simply do not understand. The person who is really hungry (as opposed to having hunger pangs) or the person who is really thirsty (as opposed to feeling like a drink) is so desperate that everything else is excluded from their desires.

William Barclay, who was Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at Glasgow University, describes the thirst a person might experience in Palestine in these terms:

"A man might be on a journey, and in the midst of it the hot wind which brought the sandstorm might begin to blow. There was nothing for him to do but to wrap his head in his burnous (a hooded cloak) and turn his back to the wind, and wait, while the swirling sand filled his nostrils and his throat until he was likely to suffocate, and until he was parched with an imperious thirst. In the conditions of modern western life there is no parallel at all to that."

When we are truly desperate, satisfying that hunger or thirst becomes a consuming passion, a grand desire and an overwhelming ambition.

Jesus says we are to have this attitude towards righteousness. We should long to live in a right relationship with God, to be seen as righteous by him and to see his righteousness in the society around us. In the Greek New Testament text the word for righteousness is in the accusative case and not the genitive. If it were in the genitive it would mean 'to desire partial righteousness' - a slice of the loaf. As it is in the accusative, it means the whole thing - the whole loaf. It means 'to desire to be entirely righteous'. We are not to be satisfied with anything less than a righteous life; we cannot accept partial goodness. It is not enough to live a Christian life when we feel like it and do what we like at other times. A righteous life is one that is righteous twenty four hours a day. It is an integrated Christian life which is lived out in an ongoing relationship, with God affecting everything we do, say and think.

The problem with many of us is that we are not that desperate. We don't want to pay the price. We say, 'Lord, make me holy, but not completely holy quite yet, if you don't mind.'

When we are really desperate Jesus says that God will fill us, and our desire for righteousness will be satisfied. It is not enough to see our own spiritual poverty, to mourn over it and to allow others to draw attention to it. We must also hunger and thirst to be different and to live a righteous life. Jesus promises that the person who follows each of these steps in their relationship with God will be blessed by him. They will live under God's blessing.

Robert Mounce: "Huston Smith (a well-known writer in the area of world religions) once observed that we can never get enough of what we really do not want. We were created for God and nothing short of his presence satisfies."

Here are some scriptures that might come in handy:

(Psalms 42:1-2) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

(John 4:13-14) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

(Revelation 7:13-15) Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.

Luke's version of the beatitudes does not include the word righteousness, however, commentators, for the most part, agree that Luke is referring to spiritual hunger.

possible discussion questions:

Describe a time when you were really hungry or thirsty or both.

What does Jesus mean when he says "hunger and thirst for righteousness"?

What does Jesus mean when he says they will be "filled"?

When would this "filling" take place?