Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
February 26, 2015 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Note: This is part 4 of an 8 part series reflecting on the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. These values of the Kingdom of God are also values of our church. How do our values shape who we are and what we do?
Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Once again, Jesus commends a kingdom value that is not in vogue with popular culture. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness sounds prudish and stuffy, like many perceptions of the Puritans. Even among professing Christians, the pursuit of righteousness is not popular. “Many today are prepared to seek other things: spiritual maturity, real happiness, the Spirit’s power, effective witnessing skills. Other people chase from preacher to preacher and conference to conference seeking some vague ‘blessing’ from on high. They hunger for spiritual experience, they thirst for the consciousness of God” (D.A. Carson, The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition, p. 21).
Why does Jesus commend hungering for righteousness? Do I really have to hunger and thirst for righteousness? Doesn’t God’s abundant grace free us from hungering for righteousness? What does it look like to hunger for righteousness?
Jesus commends hungering for righteousness because it is necessary for entering the kingdom of heaven. He states just a few verses after the Beatitudes that, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). Righteousness always is a necessary requirement for a right relationship with God. Can anyone achieve such righteousness that Jesus commends in verse 20? Absolutely not!
Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. This is first and foremost fulfilled by Christ himself. He gives his righteousness to those who hunger for righteousness, who acknowledge their poverty of righteousness and mourn over their lack of righteousness and are not presumptive in demanding from God. Those who hunger for righteousness are satisfied in the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a foreign righteousness.
Paul says it like this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Does the hunger die down then when one becomes a Christian? Absolutely not! While being fully satisfied in Christ, the Christian longs for the complete redemption of their bodies, which includes the full eradication of sin. Paul unpacks this Christian reality in Romans 6 with piercing clarity. Christians have died to sin (v. 2) and are raised to walk in newness of life (v. 4). We are no longer enslaved to sin (v. 6). Therefore Paul commands, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present your members to God as instruments of righteousness” (v. 13). In Paul’s estimation, this pursuit of righteousness is the new life of a Christian.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commenting on this Beatitude, says, “I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 74).
How about you? Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? Are you satisfied with the free gift of righteousness offered in the gospel? Is your life marked with new longings for righteousness and denials of sin? This Sunday at Oak Hills we’ll continue this focus on a Christian’s hunger for righteousness by focusing on Jesus’ teaching to cut off the members of our body that cause us to stumble in sin (Mark 9:42-48). Let’s gather as a church longing for righteousness.