Starving for Righteousness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. — Jesus

“Ack!” you say. “A guilt-trip post about how I don’t love Jesus enough because I’m not hungry enough for Him!”

No, that’s not what this is about. In fact, that’s not what Jesus was talking about at all.

Now, make no mistake: Jesus wants you to be righteous. That much is clear from one end of the Bible to the other. But let me assure you: this is not about whether you beat yourself up enough.

The question is: where does this righteousness come from?

Do not overlook this point, because it is one upon which the Christian life is based. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will then walk in righteousness.” No, He said, “…they willed be filled.” By who? Themselves?

Of course not! Here is the important thing to always remember: righteousness comes from God. God really wants you to be righteous, but not by your own strength.

As we have already seen in previous posts from the Beatitudes, the underlying emphasis seems to be that Jesus wants us to trust and rely upon God. This is no different. Those who hunger after righteousness do so because they are looking for righteousness from God. Those who set up their own system of righteousness or try to live a righteous life on their own power do not truly hunger and thirst after righteousness. Sure, they want to be righteous and they work hard to be righteous. But such people are not seeking to be filled with righteousness. They are trying to achieve righteousness.

Jesus tells us that when we realize that we lack God’s righteousness, we need to deeply desire to be filled with His righteousness, as deeply as we desire our physical food and drink. It needs to be our heartfelt desire–one that comes from a heart turned toward God and seeking Him. And then He gives us the wonderful promise that, if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be filled.

What does it look like to be filled with righteousness? Does God just barely give us enough to get by? I don’t think so. Not when we desire it as deeply as we desire physical food. Here’s what He tells us:

Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Yet listen now, Jacob my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you says: “Don’t be afraid, Jacob my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring: and they will spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses.” (Isaiah 44:1-4)

God said that He would not just satisfy the thirst of the thirsty; He said that He would pour water on them.

And that is what Jesus promises us in the verse we are studying: to fill us with righteousness. To satisfy our hunger and thirst, not merely to give us enough to stagger along on the road to Heaven. And please don’t miss the importance of that last sentence. Jesus did not say that a Godly person will always be hungry for more righteousness. Because when God makes us righteous, we are righteous!

A few verses later, Jesus says that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. What’s important to realize is that He had already indicated that righteousness did not come by obeying the Law, but rather by hungering and thirsting after righteousness and being filled by God.

The Pharisees did not hunger and thirst after righteousness. They developed their own system of righteousness and rejected God. They did not seek to be filled with His righteousness. Instead, they sought to fill themselves with their own righteousness of good works. God wasn’t impressed.

So let’s learn from the mistakes of the Pharisees and the words of Jesus, and be filled with the righteousness of God.

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