What does it mean that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness?


blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Question: "What does it mean that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness?"

Answer:
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, a list of blessings that describe the inner character of those who are true servants of God and the kingdom of heaven. This teaching was part of Jesus Christ’s intensive discipleship training for His twelve chosen apostles. The fourth Beatitude states, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

The Beatitudes offer solid truths for living as a disciple of Christ. While each Beatitude can stand on its own, they aren’t merely a collection of unrelated statements. They are linked in an unbroken chain, each one building on the previous truth. The first several Beatitudes deal with the condition of the heart; the second set pertains to our relationship with the Lord; the final grouping treats our relationships with others.

Jesus always begins with the heart. When He pronounced a blessing on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He touched on the inner state of our hearts.

Drawing from Old Testament passages that describe the downtrodden and oppressed (Psalm 10:17–18; 74:21; 109:22; 140:12; Proverbs 15:15 Job 5:17; Isaiah 30:18), Jesus used language and concepts in the Beatitudes that were familiar to His audience (Psalm 1:1; 34:8; 65:4; 128:1; Proverbs 14:21). Those listening were living under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. They were experiencing excessive taxation, denied freedoms, and persecution. The servants of God’s kingdom desperately needed the heavenly perspective and hope of an eternal inheritance that Christ presented in the Beatitudes.

The word blessed in the Beatitudes signifies deep, joy-filled contentment and an inner state of spiritual well-being. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to possess an active spiritual longing: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2; see also Psalm 63:1; 143:6; Amos 8:11). This desire is not passive; it is a fervent seeking. The servant who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is the same as the one who seeks God’s kingdom and His righteousness before and above everything else (Matthew 6:33). This servant is blessed because he or she experiences a satisfied heart. This servant can say, “It is well with my soul.”

Righteousness speaks of right relationship with God and with other people. The idea of right relationships with others forms the link in the chain to the next section of the Beatitudes, while right standing with God is His gift of salvation given through faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe in Him (Romans 3:22).

Luke’s rendering of the fourth Beatitude holds only the notion of hunger: “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied” (Luke 6:21). But Matthew’s report intensifies the desire for righteousness with the addition of thirst. Those who thirst for righteousness receive the water Jesus offered to the woman at the well: “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14, NLT). The term filled or satisfied in the Beatitude means that the pangs of hunger and thirst will disappear. The verb is passive, indicating that God Himself will fulfill our intense desire for right relationship with Him. Salvation is His gift. We can’t earn it (Ephesians 2:8).

In summary, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled could be paraphrased as follows: “Deeply joyful and spiritually whole are those who actively seek right relationship with God and, in so doing, discover that He alone can completely save and satisfy their souls.”

Recommended Resource: Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: And His Confrontation with the World by D.A. Carson

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