Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Have you ever had one of those conversations with your spouse or kids?
“I’m hungry . . .”
“Okay, let’s see . . . What are you hungry for?”
“I don’t know really . . . I’m just hungry. . .”
“How about Mexican?”
“No, anything but Mexican. . .”
“What about trying the new Italian place?”
“No, that doesn’t really sound good to me . . .”
“So, you choose . . . What about just ordering pizza?”
“No . . .let me think about it . . .” and they wander off into another room.
Meanwhile, by now you’re hungry, too, and they can’t make up their mind so you’re at their mercy.
Jesus was very clear that the blessing came not in just being hungry or thirsty. That happens to everyone. What He specified was that blessing would rest on those who made the choice – whose decisions were clear and unwavering. They are hungry and thirsty, all right – but for righteousness.
Blessing comes to those whose hunger and thirst is directed at the things of God, not the things of this world. William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew describes this hunger and thirst in this way: “It is the hunger of the man who is starving for food, and the thirst of the man who will die unless he drinks” (pp. 99-100).
We hear and feel this kind of hunger and thirst in the writings of the Psalmist:
Psalm 42:1-2: As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 63:1: O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
This hunger and thirst for righteousness is as vital to our spiritual life and strength as the human flesh that hungers after food and drink for the sustenance of life. We must seek after His righteousness not our own. We must be thirsty for He who said, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth. Come ye to the waters!” We must hunger for the Bread of Life.
And when we are hungering and thirsting – when we are passionately pursuing Him and His presence and His righteousness in our lives . . . the promise is there: “they shall be filled.”
There have been great theological discussions and attempts to define righteousness. In the most simple of explanations, to follow the word used in this passage to its root, it is the holiness of God. So what does hungering and thirsting after righteousness/holiness look like? It is answering the call of I Peter 1:15-16: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” An individual who is actively hungering and thirsting after righteousness will be a person who is living in pursuit of the holiness of God. The writings of Peter were a reference to a passage in Leviticus (20:7, 8): “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.”
We live in a world that centers itself on itself, that focuses attention on the power of the individual encouraging everyone to just “be yourself!” The idea of doing whatever you want to do with no thought for the consequences and ramifications of your behavior has wreaked havoc on our society. This beatitude – this blessing – comes from turning completely away from the world and facing head-on the holiness and righteousness of God. We will echo the words of Isaiah when He saw the Lord high and lifted up, His train filling the temple: “Woe is me! for I am undone …” Gone will be the self-seeking and self-serving of the age in which we live. A hunger and thirst for righteousness – and the promised filling that comes with it – will bring a new lifestyle of God-centered words and deeds.