Lenten Devotional Day 5

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

March 1, 2020

The Only Appetite that Can Completely Satisfy 

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” [NKJV]

All of us have felt at one time or another hungry and thirsty.  We know what it’s like to know that it’s time to eat or to get a drink.  Very, very few of us, however, have ever been desperately hungry and/or frantically thirsty – you know, like a starving and parched person who has no access to food or drink.  So, we will miss the power of Jesus’ beatitude, because we have not experienced hunger and thirst physically in the way that he means it.

The combination of the two Greek words peinowntes (are hungering) and dipsowntes (are thirsting for) creates quite a strong metaphor that expresses human yearning for what we desperately need.  It is not accidental that Jesus seizes upon this imagery here in the fourth beatitude, because of the focus of the craving – righteousness.  The Lord is announcing here to his disciples that the blessing he promises is only for those whose desire for righteousness is urgent, intense, and focused.  He is not saying that those who are intrigued by or have a variable taste for righteousness will experience any kind of blessedness. People who have only an occasional sense of the world’s need for God and an intermittent desire for God’s presence and God’s will, much less those who think of their “faith” as just one of many aspects of their lives, cannot expect to receive the blessing that Jesus has in mind.  This blessedness is only for those who are focused upon, committed to, and longing for God’s righteousness.

Add to the sense of intensity and urgency of need that Jesus’ imagery expresses the focus of the hunger and thirst – righteousness – and we can understand better why the craving must be intense for the blessing to be experienced.  Dikaiosunen is the Greek word that is translated “righteousness.”  It is what those who are “poor in spirit” realize they are lacking without God, what those who mourn are grieving over its absence in their lives and the world, and what the meek are submitted to live in and live out in their lives.  The righteousness that Jesus identifies as the object of hungering and thirsting is nothing less than the unceasing desire for God’s rightful place as the Source and Creator and good will as the Holy Father of all to be manifested in His world.  The arrival of righteousness has two related expressions:

First, it is desiring for the world to be set right according to God’s holy goodness and intentions.  The hunger and thirst is to see the oppressed set free and the oppressors judged, the needy exalted and the indifferent corrected, as well as to see one’s own life made right with God and live in the peace that God’s kingdom will bring.  However, this ache to see the world put right is not a hunger and thirst just to see the things “out-there” made right. The second way that this hunger works and manifests itself, then, is in the desire and quest that our own lives reflect the very character of the Holy One whose good and perfect will we know we can not live without.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see God’s holiness manifested in them and through them to the world that needs God righteousness. It means to be desperate to live the way God wants us to live.

The blessing that Jesus proclaims is simple, even as it is also profound.  “They shall be filled.”  In other words, the appetite for God’s will in the world and our lives – to experience the holiness of God – is a longing that will be satiated.  Chortazomai is a very vivid and striking word we translate “shall be filled,” which was used, as well, when describing the fattening of animals and can be understood as “filled to the brim.”  It is a future tense verb (shall be) with present tense implications.  

Our desperate longing for and openness to God’s holy character and right-making presence will someday be satisfied beyond our wildest dreams.  As we were made in the image of God, we were created for the presence of God and His holiness, even as we were made to live in a world where God will rule in grace and peace over all things.  We were created with an appetite for the Eternal and Infinite One. The willingness to be satisfied with anything less will always lead to an insatiable need for more. But, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled and never again feel empty.  We will be satisfied without any other need, because we will be filled with the goodness, presence, and holy love of the One for whom we were made. And even now, we have a “foretaste” of that fulness when we allow God’s holy love to be the only thing we really want! So, as we live right now in a fallen world in which God’s righteousness is not fully seen, let us not get distracted, intrigued, and contented by that which will always disappoint.  And let us live in the promise of God’s holy righteous presence right now.

Stay thirsty (and hungry) my friends.

Steve Blakemore, Ph.D
Steve Blakemore, Ph.D
Dr. Blakemore is a co-founder of the JCW Center and the Professor of Christian Thought at Wesley Biblical Seminary.