Those thoughts that keep us tossing and turning long after the kids of gone to bed and after the smartphones have dimmed are not insignificant. They possess a profound power to shape and direct our lives for years if not decades. For this reason, the wise king Solomon charged his son to “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Prv. 4:23).”
The question then becomes, “how do we keep our heart with all diligence.” What should serve as the guiding star of life? Or to say it another way, to what desire should all other desires bend?
According to Jesus, the soul’s primary desire should be for righteousness. Matthew 5:6 records, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”
Hungering and Thirsting
By associating righteousness with human survival, Jesus reminds us that we are more than material beings. We have primal needs that extend beyond the bounds of coffee and steaks. As Jesus told the devil in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Even if we can secure large, comfortable houses and pipelines to the healthiest of foods, our bodies will still die. Soul satisfying contentment cannot be found in earthly pursuits regardless of one’s nobility or essential qualities. As Jesus reminds us, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life (Jn 6:27).” Human beings were designed for more than food and water. They were designed to glorify God through the pursuit of righteousness.
By righteousness, Matthew implies right or holy living. This proves problematic for us because we are by nature sinners. We die because our physical and spiritual natures are broken.
But Jesus does not intend to convey the idea that sinners must pursue righteousness to gain their salvation. We are not to work our way to heaven.
Matthew claims that Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness, pleasing the Father through paying the penalty for our sin (Mt 3:15, 17). The apostle Peter affirms the Matthew narrative writing, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed (1 Pet 2:24).” The one who has mourned his or her sin and found comfort in Christ finds eternal comfort. Jesus pays the penalty for all of our sins and clothes us in his righteousness. Those who drink of the waters of salvation “will never be thirsty again.” There is nothing left for us to pay off.
The ability to hunger and thirst after righteousness comes only after we repent of our sins and place our trust in the work of Jesus’s death and resurrection. The famed Welsh expositor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, beautifully summed up the sentiment of this beatitude when he wrote, “It means that one’s supreme desire in life is to know God and to be in fellowship with Him, to walk with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the light.”
What Should We Eat?
The question then becomes how does one find such righteousness? The context of Jesus’s sermon proves helpful. A few verses later in Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus affirms the centrality of the Bible, declaring that those who teach and do his commandments “will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Such a love of God’s law goes beyond the performance driven righteousness of the Pharisees who washed their hands while they held bitterness in their hearts. Those who love the laws of God do not dismiss them as too hard. Nor do they regulate them to something that happens once or twice a week. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness long to know and obey God’s Word. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 119:93, “I will never forget your precepts for by them you have given me life.” Those who know the comfort of Christ will reside in the Bible.
When the righteousness have to make decisions about careers, schools, churches, homes, and how to handle depression, they look to the Word of God for wisdom. so that they may do what God would have them do. The righteousness of God as found in the Law of God should be the believer’s shining star whose gravitational pull shapes the soul’s universe.
Those who genuinely hunger and thirst after righteousness find satisfaction. Just as the crowd of 5000 ate Jesus’s miraculous meal “and were satisfied,” those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will always leave the spiritual table full (Matt 14:20). Souls that find themselves forever aching with hunger pains have either intentionally or unintentionally ceased to feed on righteousness of Jesus. Instead of pursuing Christ, they have begun to eat from the garbage of sinful desires. Christians who live for money can lose their investments. Those of us who live for sex and relationships, can discover the displeasures of age and loneliness. But those who live for righteousness find satisfaction today and tomorrow. As the psalmist noted, young lions, “suffer want and hunger,” but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing (Ps 34:11).
The pursuit of righteousness also results in collateral blessings. Jesus notes in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” The soul needs food and clothing. Hearts need meaningful relationships. The pursuit of righteousness does not exclude us from all earthly blessings. Rather, it is the source of all earthly blessing for it keeps us from making God’s good gifts into idols. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness need not hunger for anything, finding hope and contentment in Christ.
The discovery of satisfaction leads to an increased appetite for the things of God. Just as a football player on a championship caliber team would long for more and more wins after winning the first two games on his schedule, the believer should continually hunger and thirst righteousness. As the apostle Paul notes, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own (Phil 3:12).” The Christian who has had his or her sins paid in full by the blood of Christ will long for the righteousness of Jesus with more and more intensity. And the experience of righteousness will lead to an even greater desire for purity which will in-turn be satisfied and producing an even great longing for God.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.