“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”Matthew 5:6, NIV
Have you ever been hungry or thirsty? Really hungry? Really thirsty? I haven’t. Not really.
I do remember being very thirsty one day in northern Nigeria. We’d just returned from a visit to the weekly market. I don’t remember how hot it was that day, but our temperatures could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more, and it was hot that day. And dry…very, very dry.
By the time I reached home I was more than thirsty. I first downed several glasses of cool water from our clay water pot. Then I jumped in the shower (a rope and pulley system that lowered and raised the bucket with a shower head attached). I let the water pour over me and seep into my pores. It truly felt as though my body were drinking the water. That’s thirsty. Thankfully, my thirst has never lasted too long. I’ve been blessed with access to water.
I can’t answer what it’s like to be truly hungry though. But these words from ones living through a long drought can help us better understand:
“Hunger pains never go away…At times, I feel dizziness. When I want to walk, my legs get so weak they want to stop. At times I [feel] like leaving my wife and children and going away to disappear. I would go away and let the enemies kill me, or just lie die and die and let the wild animals eat me.”“Five Days Learning What Hunger Feels Like”
That’s physical hunger and physical thirst. But Jesus says we’re blessed if we hunger and thirst for righteousness. How do we do that? And what exactly is righteousness?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “righteous” as “acting in accord with divine or moral law” or “morally right or justifiable.” Righteousness, then, would be the state of or quality of being morally right.
The Greek word used in Matthew 5:6 is dikaiosynen. In its’ various forms it’s translated as righteous, righteousness, justice. It’s used to denote God’s righteousness. HELPS Word Studies explains it as “God’s judicial approval,” stating that it refers to “what is deemed right by the Lord . . . what is approved in His eyes” (https://biblehub.com/greek/1343.htm).
It’s important to make the distinction between what I think is right and what God thinks is right. My judgment is skewed by my own desires, which, I’m sorry to say, are more often than not selfish desires. The only pure measurement of righteousness is God’s as He is the one who set this whole world in motion.
So, do I hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness? For what God desires? Do you? Do you want righteousness so much you can feel it? Have you reached the point where your aches and pains as you hunger for righteousness are like those of the ones hungering for food?
When you have no food, food is all you can think about. When you look at the world–both near and far–and discover things that are not the way God wants them to be, do you get that empty feeling? Does it make you hunger and thirst for righteousness? For God’s righteousness? Is bringing about what God deems right all you can think about?
If not, why not?
Daniel, a Nigeria pastor who was a friend of ours, spoke of visiting England. He was well fed there. Yet, he was always hungry. He was hungry because there was no tuwo, and tuwo was the staple food of home. Made of corn flour or pounded yam or sorghum flour, it’s like a solid cream of wheat in form. What our friend Daniel came to realize was that the local breads and foods just didn’t satisfy him. Not because they weren’t good foods, but because he wasn’t used to them. Eventually, over his long visit in England, he came to the place where British food not only sustained him; it satisfied him. He grew to like it.
He told us he equated his experience with British food with that of learning to hunger for righteousness.. When we become Christians, we aren’t used to a diet of righteousness. God’s righteousness. It may take a while to understand just what it is and to develop a taste for it. But as we try it out and as we learn just what it is, we also learn to appreciate it. As that happens, our hunger for it should grow. We should get to the point where it regularly is on our minds. Like a teenage boy as he leaves the lunch table asking “What’s for dinner tonight?” We hunger for the next way we can work towards bringing about God’s righteousness in a broken world. Blessings come when we work hard to find it and are not satisfied when we can’t find it.
Isn’t a search for righteousness what inspired many of the great works of Christians? A desire for God’s righteousness to prevail?
- William Wilberforce saw that slavery did not fit with his Christian beliefs. That led him to work towards abolishing slavery.
- Billy Graham came to realize that segregation was not supported by God’s Word. He went against popular opinion, even the opinions of evangelical Christians in the south, and began integrating his crusades in 1953.
- Corrie ten Boom and her family were faithful Christians, helping those in need by giving food, money, and shelter. Their hiding Jews from the Nazis led to Corrie and other family members being arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. She hungered for true righteousness, eventually meeting and forgiving two of the Germans who had worked at the prison camp where she and her sister Betsie had been and where Betsie had died.
- L.L. Letgers and William Cameron Townsend believed God’s message of salvation should be for all the people of the world, but found many people had no access to it in a language they could understand. The founded Wycliffe Bible Translators, which, since its founding, has participated in over 700 translations worldwide.
There are still so many places in the world where things are not as God desires them to be. Righteousness is not prevailing. And because we Christians are the ones who have been blessed with a knowledge of God and of His will through His gift of the Bible, we are the ones responsible for bringing about the righteousness of God in today’s world.
I’ve never before prayed that I would be hungry and thirsty, but I think I’ll start today. How about you?
Soul Refreshers for your week:
- Get to know about God’s righteousness. You might do a word study of verses in the New Testament that talk about righteousness. You can do that by checking the concordance at the back of your Bible if it has one. If not, you might search online for such verses. Jot down what you discover and use those ideas for meditation and prayer.
- Pray that God would make you hungry for His righteousness.
- Develop a taste for righteousness. Begin to intentionally seek out places in your world and in the world at large where righteousness is missing. Pray about how you can bring God’s righteousness to those situations.
- Read a biography about one of God’s people who worked to bring about God’s righteousness.
- To get a better picture of true physical hunger, read that article “Five Days of Learning What Hunger Feels Like.”
- Update: What can you do to bring God’s righteousness to the Afghan refugees?