Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
a. Let’s take a look at the first part of this verse. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. Jesus is talking to the crowd about a “spiritual” hunger and thirst, not physical. What does he mean when he says this? Thomas Watson puts it this way, “Spiritual hunger is a blessed hunger. What is meant by hunger? Hunger is put for desire. Spiritual hunger is the rational appetite whereby the soul pants after that which it apprehends most suitable and proportional to itself. Whence is this hunger? Hunger is from the sense of lack. He who spiritually hungers, has a real sense of his own indigence.” It is the desire for the Word of God and the yearning to know God. The psalmist in Psalm 42 has a longing and desire to seek out God, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (42:1-2). He is comparing his thirst for God as one actually thirsts for water. We cannot survive without water, therefore we cannot survive without God. Kent Hughes gives us a picture of the parallels between physical and spiritual hunger, “The fourth Beatitude is a call to pursue conformity to God’s will stated in the most extreme of terms. The intensity of the expression is difficult for us to feel because if we are thirsty today, all we need to do is turn on the tap for cold, refreshing water; or if we are hungry, we just open the refrigerator. However, to the ancient Palestinian the expression was terribly alive because he was never far from the possibility of dehydration or starvation. It is not a comfortable picture. Jesus is far from recommending a genteel desire for spiritual nourishment, but rather a starvation for righteousness, a desperate hungering to be conformed to God’s will.” As we hunger and thirst for food and water physically, we hunger and thirst to be in the will of God spiritually.
b. The second part of the sentence says those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Righteousness in this sense means to be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God sent his son for our sins and bridged the gap between God and man. Now we can be made right through Christ and if we accept the free gift of salvation, we can be made right with God. This cannot be achieved by “self-righteousness” but through the unfailing righteous love of Christ. Kay Arthur warns us about self-righteousness, “Self-righteousness is always man’s interpretation or addition to the clear-cut teaching of God’s Word. It’s a process of tacking on extra laws, requirements, and expectations, and then saying that if you are really going to be righteous, you must keep all these rules. It is judging others by your standards rather than God’s. How deceptive this is, Beloved! What a terrible trap it becomes!” Reader, beware of this type of righteousness! We should be hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness and not our own.
c. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. When we desire and yearn to be right with God, we will be satisfied! What a wonderful promise Jesus gives us here. Psalm 23:1 says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” We have all we need through our Savior. We can seek out all the things that world has to offer just as Solomon did but in the end it will be meaningless unless we have God. The Lord gives us an invitation to his table in Isaiah 55:1-2, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Let us stop eating the bread and drinking the wine of the world and start dining with Jesus at his table of fulfillment. Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35) and “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Our spiritual hunger and thirst will be quenched when we lay down the worldly food that does not satisfy and join him in eating the bread of life and sipping on the living water.
d. How can we develop this attitude? Philippians 3:7-9, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” We have to let the Holy Spirit first convict us and then guide us to a place of hunger and thirst. We have to die daily to the desires of the world. We must continually ask, seek and knock on God’s door (Mt. 7:7-8). We must eat the bread of life and drink from the God’s living well. Then we will truly be satisfied.
“There’s really a paradox here. For in one sense you are deeply satisfied when you hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness to be radiantly evident in your life, and yet you will keep hungering and thirsting for more. The Christian life is one of knowing something of immediate satisfaction in the forgiveness of sins and assurance of salvation (in justification), but it is also an ongoing process in which you continue to hunger and thirst, and you continue to find deeper satisfaction (in sanctification), until one day you will stand completed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ with no more sin, no more temptation, no more desire for sin, but only the perfections of Christ clothing you (in glorification).” -Phil Newton