As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
I didn’t have a clue what real hunger was until I went to Calcutta, India. There I saw a shriveled woman, a skeletal dog, and one scrawny pig rummaging through a pile of garbage in a competition for something to eat. I realized that few of us in the modern West know what it means to be hungry and thirsty. But in Jesus’ everyday world the average family lived close to the line between hunger and starvation. Thirst was also frequent for them as they had no water fountains or faucets streaming water into their little homes.
The hunger and thirst Jesus blesses in this beatitude is not my hunger for a mid-morning snack, or thirst for a Big Gulp with ice. Jesus is talking about the hunger of people starving for a crumb, and the thirst of someone who will die unless he gets water soon. Jesus says that when we hunger and thirst like that for righteousness, we will “be filled”. This is the blessedness of starving for the satisfaction of one single need: righteousness.
Righteousness and God’s kingdom are key themes in Jesus’ teaching. He commands that we pursue both righteousness and God’s kingdom with our whole being: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). These are the “first” things in life that really matter, the “first” things we are to pursue. Indeed, yearning for righteousness is a yearning for God’s kingdom.
The Greek word translated as “righteousness” (dikaisonye) is a “relational term…that emphasizes the conduct of humans expected by God…people who long to live according to God’s will” (Mark Allen Powell, A Pastoral Theology of Matthew’s Gospel). In the Gospel of Matthew we discover that a right relation with God includes a “right relation with everything else, including one’s possessions (6:24), one’s neighbor (22:38-40), and even one’s enemies (5:44)” (Mark Allen Powell, A Pastoral Theology of Matthew’s Gospel).
Righteousness is all about living right with God and others. Jesus pronounces His blessing on those who hunger and thirst to live right. This is what they want more than anything. Notice that Jesus’ blessing comes with a promise of satisfaction; they will be “filled” with that for which they long: righteousness.
Perhaps we do not have righteousness in our lives, but can we say that we hunger and thirst for it? It is our hungering and thirsting for that which we do not yet have that so pleases God.
PONDER AND PRAY
“As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”—Psalm 40:1-2
- Think of a time when you were really hungry or thirsty. Does that say anything to you about your hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness?
- What do you want To Say To God?