“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6)
I read a sermon recently from Mark Dunagan titled “To Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness” that I thought was very encouraging and informative. This morning I would like to present the bulk of that sermon to you with some of my additions. I hope that you find it as encouraging as I did when I read it.
Hunger and Thirst
This beatitude ties hunger and thirst together. Each individually are strong desires. We all know what it feels like to miss a meal or go too long without water. Jesus combines both terms to indicate that we should desire or yearn for righteousness with our whole being. “Hunger” here carries the idea of a state of emptiness. So, we are not talking about a person who is just a little hungry. Someone who wants like a snack. This is a person who feels to the very core of their being, their spiritual poverty (cf. Matthew 5:3).
Such a person has a great promise from Jesus that they “shall be satisfied.” However, note that this promise is conditional. It is only those who pursue righteousness that will be satisfied (Psalm 42:1-2; 1:2-3). I like what Mark Dunagan had to say about this point. He said, “This means that pursuing God now and then, here and there; hot one moment and cold at the next will only end in disappointment. Not merely disappointment at the judgment, but disappointment in this life as well.” Unless I pursue God, His truth, righteousness, holiness, etc., I will not enjoy my walk as a Christian. And, I would go so far as to say that you won’t make it as a Christian in the long run. Spiritual half-heartedness always catches up with a person. Take the church at Laodicea as an example. Sure, they were content in their lukewarm state, but Jesus said to them, “Those whom I love I discipline; therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Righteousness “is a state of integrity in relation to God and one’s fellow man, expressing itself in one’s acts and speech” it “is an attribute which stems from a covenantal relationship [with God].” Jesus says that we should hunger and thirst for righteousness because righteousness is the summation and the goal of life (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
This hungering and thirsting for righteousness are within the abilities of us humans. Why? Because we see every day how people, even Christians, put all their energies into far lesser goals than righteousness.
- Some give all their attention and energy to learning. For example, the Athenians in Acts 17:21 “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”
- Others throw themselves into physical pursuits. Paul gives the examples of an Olympian and a boxer in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to illustrate how we should be pursuing with all our energies God’s righteousness.
- And yet still others through themselves complete into sin. “Indulging in the desires of the flesh and of the mind” Ephesians 2:3.
What Is Your Consuming Desire?
In Matthew 5:6, “hunger” and “thirst” are in the present active. Here it indicates that the one who will be filled is the one who keeps on hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I like what Harold Fowler said concerning this beatitude:
“Jesus challenges our real desire for goodness: “Are you so intensely and sharply pained by your need of true righteousness that you would die unless you get it? Just how badly do you want to be righteous?” Such questions criticize our satisfaction with partial goodness, half-way accomplishment, and partly kept promises to be good. Jesus cannot leave men in peace if He is to convert them.”
When a person truly hungers and thirst for God’s righteousness, they realize:
- Just being a good moral person is not enough.
- God’s standards are the only guide to eternal life and cannot be compromised.
- Any issue that God has addressed is a big issue. This means that when one is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, one does not neglect public worship, and neither does one see how close to the line of sin they can get without sinning.
- In the sermon on the mount, Jesus goes beyond mere outward conformity with God’s standards (Matthew 5:20ff). The inward attitudes and emotions matter just as much. Inward purity (Matthew 5:28), proper conduct in our relationships (vv.21-48), and placing God first in all things (Matthew 6:33) would all be included in hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
Shall Be Filled
As we mentioned earlier, this beatitude has a great promise attached to it. That those whose all-consuming goal in life is God’s righteousness shall be filled or satisfied. We see in our day just how all the promises of the 60’s counter-culture movement have fallen flat. All the freedom the world promised has produced almost three generations of adults without aim, purpose, or hope, which makes Jesus’ promise here all the sweeter to the soul and our ears.
For the Christian, this satisfaction is Christ Himself. It is in Christ that God has forgiven our “trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), and it is through Christ, we have the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).
For the person who is out of Christ. If you recognize that your life as it is, it is incomplete. That something is missing. That you have been trying to fill this God-shaped hole in your soul with pursuits that never satisfy, Jesus can fulfill. The beatitude’s promise is for you as well. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Then, all those blessings we talk about are yours as well. But only if you will give yourself over to Christ (Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3ff).
 Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Righteousness. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1861). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
 Fowler, Harold (1968). Gospel of Matthew. Joplin, MO: College Press. Pg. 215.