Sunday, September 6, 2015

What Does Jesus Mean "Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness?"

New International Version
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Matt 5:6

A quick reading of the commentaries would have you believe that the Jesus was only noting that if we hunger and thirst after the righteousness that we have already received through our decision to call him Lord, that we will be filled. I have a hard time with this interpretation. Why would I be hungering and thirsting after what I have already received...for what has already been imputed to me?

On the other hand, I may have Christ's righteousness in me, and yet I continue to act in ways that are not righteous. Certainly I might hunger and thirst to grow in my understanding of what it is to be outwardly righteous and to have the inner peace that comes from a righteousness that flows from within. Some might have difficultly differentiating this idea from legalism, but it is quite the opposite. We are not sinning less because we are looking for a legal pardon for that sin. We are sinning less because our love of the Father and his Son causes us to hunger and thirst after their idea of discover it through the Word, and then to live it out. 

Then we would also hunger and thirst after righteousness in this fallen world. We know that this is the will of the Father, as Jesus prayed "on earth, as it is in heaven." This might be taking place at two levels. 
  1. We want our children, neighbors, coworkers and even our enemies to be blessed as we are when they repent and enter the Kingdom of God. So we hunger and thirst after the righteousness of those who are not yet righteous before God.
  2. We desire to see righteous action among even the heathens. Our heart is heavy as we see the depravity of men all around us. We seek after righteousness through our participation in the changing of the culture. We can't help but be drawn by our hunger and thirst to help the victims of sin and even those who are perpetrating harm.
Then What?

If I am hungering and thirsting, I should be acting. Our wealth keeps us from having any thought or idea about what it is to hunger or to thirst. Even if we have fasted for spiritual, health, or other reasons, we have generally done so in a way to keep our hungering to a minimum. We plan it out so that the discomfort is not that problematic. There is certainly no comparison to the hunger that those who are not certain about their next meal or have been hungry for a long time. There is no comparison to the thirst of someone who is parched with no clear indication that they will find relief any time soon.

So we are hungering and more like a modern American who has a mealtime delayed by an hour. We are thirsting like someone who has forgotten to take a water bottle on an hour hike. And the efforts to slake that thirst after righteousness is about the same as the hiker who knows he has bottled water in his car just ahead.

A Lack of Work to Be Done?

Is there a shortage of unrighteousness in the world? In the US? In our neighborhood? Last time I checked, righteousness is in short supply and becoming more scarce by the day. The number of my friends and family that have divorced their spouses, been unfaithful, participated in sex outside of marriage, fallen into addiction, or just lived a life punctuated by sinful behavior is way beyond my recollection of such behavior in the '50's or early '60's. Maybe there have been other times when society has been this proud (I don't need God), but it is hard to imagine.

As noted in earlier posts, the pride of this generation is probably unmatched in history. Most of my associates who are not fellow Christians have almost no interest in God, and believe that humans are perfectly capable of handling all the things they might have previously called on God to do. This might be the largest missionary field ever, in that pride is the sin God hates. Some folks who look like really fine people, give to charity, work to help the poor, are filled with pride. We should be hungering and thirsting to deal with so much sin at such a high level. How do we reach them?

What will you do to sate your hunger or thirst? So many "good" Christians seem to be immobilized or clueless as to how to help bring about change. Many have told me they have no idea what they could do, or that they lack any specific passion. My admonition is to be like Paul and head off toward some mission field. If God redirects you, great. If he doesn't, then keep walking and working until you feel led otherwise.

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