“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6)
We’ve been talking about the Beatitudes Jesus taught on the Mount. Last Sunday, we talked about the third blessing. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Mt 5:5)
Here, the original Greek word that’s translated as ‘meek’ is πραΰς (praus), which is basically used to refer to those who are disciplined and thus able to control their temper and emotions. The meek are those who are tamed by God’s will and submit their lives to Him.
Like horses that are tamed and well trained by their owners, the meek don’t insist on their own opinions and plans but completely surrender everything to God in their complete trust and reliance on Him.
That’s the meekness and humility we find in Jesus’ life. The word ‘praus’ is used four times in the New Testament and it is mostly applied to Jesus.
Because Jesus was meek, He completely obeyed His Father’s will even though it required Him to be crucified. Jesus humbled Himself before God and did whatever He told Him to do. That’s the meekness and humility Jesus showed on the cross which we should learn from Him.
Just as His meekness and humility brought us salvation, we need to try to be meek and humble in God’s sight, especially in our relationships with others so that we can also bring them to God just as Jesus did for us.
All right. That’s what we talked about in the last sermon, and today I want us to move on to the fourth blessing.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6)
Here, we find an important concept in Christianity—righteousness. This word is often used to describe both who God is and our spiritual status before Him. Because God is so just and righteous, He wants His people to live righteously like Him. So, righteousness is one of the essential characteristics we must have as God’s children.
Here, the original Greek word for righteousness is δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosune). However, it’s not easy to define the word because it is used in the Bible many times in different contexts and meanings. But, if we interpret the word in our context, it basically means the condition we need to be in for us to be acceptable to God and stand before Him.
Righteousness is the condition we must be in to have a proper relationship with God. What sin does is sever our relationship with God. But righteousness works in the exact opposite way. It allows us to go near to God.
Then, an important question to think about is, “How can we have this righteousness, the condition we must meet to stand before God?”
When it came to this subject, Jewish people and Christians had different approaches. The Jews thought that they could obtain a righteous status before God by obeying the law of Moses. This is based on what Moses said in Dt 6:25:
“If we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (Dt 6:25)
The Jewish concept of righteousness primarily relied on their works. They thought that they could be righteous if they obeyed God’s righteous commands. That was the first way we can think about earning righteousness.
And there’s nothing wrong with this view. If we could perfectly obey God’s law, we could earn a righteous status and stand before Him. The problem is, no one in the world can do so. Because all people are born with the nature of sin, they are all subjected to it.
Our sinful nature makes us not do what we think is right but do what we think is wrong. As Paul said,
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Rm 7:15-18)
So, no matter how well we know God’s law and no matter how earnestly we want to keep it, no one can reach a perfect righteous status to stand before God by obeying the law. It’s just impossible.
That’s why Paul wrote, “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law” (Gal 2:16a).
So, it turned out that the first way of earning righteousness through our works of the law is impossible because of our sinful nature. But that’s not the only way. Because God knew that it was impossible for us to be righteous in the first way, He has given us a second way to be perfectly righteous before Him. And the second method is through faith, not by works.
After saying “a person is not justified by the works of the law” Pau added, “…but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:16b)
What God did to save us from our hopeless situation is to make perfect righteousness through His Son’s sacrifice and death and freely give it to all those who believe in Him. We call this the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, what’s important in regard to our righteousness is not what we do, but whom we believe in. There is no place for righteousness by works of the law because now we can only be justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul could boldly say, “we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Rom 3:28) because “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood - to be received by faith.” (Rom 3:25)
This is one of the central beliefs we have as Christians. Before Christ came, there had been no way to have the perfect righteousness to stand before God. But the Son of God came to the world in human form and died on the cross, bearing all our sins.
By doing so, Christ did what we were unable to do because of our sin. He made perfect righteousness by sacrificing Himself as an atonement for all people’s sins and He opened the way for us to be justified and become righteous before God.
So, in Paul’s usage, δικαιοσύνη, righteousness, refers to our new spiritual status of being accepted by God by faith in Jesus Christ. Now, what God sees is our genuine faith in His Son, not our works.
Here are some passages that beautifully declare this great truth.
“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says… If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Rm 10:4-6, 9-10)
Paul also said in 2 Corinthians 5:21,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Co 5:21)
That’s how we earn a righteous status before God. We can never reach the point of standing before Him on our own through our works. But when we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and profess that He is the Lord out of our faith, Jesus’ righteousness starts to work in us and our faith is credited to us as righteousness.
Hungering And Thirsting for Righteousness
Then, this is the righteousness we should continue to seek to have in our lives. As soon as the Holy Spirit awakens our spirits, we naturally begin to long for righteousness before God.
What the Holy Spirit continues to remind us of is the truth that we are sinners by nature and thus can’t help but be unrighteous without God. But the Holy Spirit also gives us the desire to be righteous. He makes us ask again and again, “How can I be made righteous in God’s sight?” “How can I go closer to God’s presence as a sinner?”
This is what hungering and thirsting means. It means that we desperately desire to have a righteous status and be with God.
That’s where justification begins. When we realize that we’re unrighteous sinners who don’t deserve to stand before God at all, we long to be righteous.
That desire leads us to Jesus Christ who alone can give us what we truly desire. And when we believe in Jesus Christ, accepting everything He did to save us as truth, His precious blood and His righteousness immediately begin to work in us and justify us.
But, that’s not the only kind of righteousness we’re seeking as Christians. After we’ve found Jesus and are forgiven and justified by His precious blood, then we begin to seek another kind of righteousness, namely, sanctification.
We’ve talked about Abraham’s faith and his righteousness. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6)
Abraham believed in God’s promise when it seemed impossible for it to come true. And God credited Abraham’s faith as righteousness. That was the first time God’s special plan to give mankind righteousness through their faith was revealed.
In the same way, we are justified when we believe in Jesus. Even though we’ve done nothing righteous, God still credits our faith as righteousness. But the righteousness we have in Christ is only ‘credited’ righteousness. We’ve done nothing to gain the righteousness. It was God’s gracious gift.
Then, those who have this ‘credited’ righteousness, namely justification, begin to have the desire to truly become more righteous like Jesus. They are not satisfied with the fact that they are justified. Now, they long for God’s righteous character to transform them so that they can do good things for Him. We call this process, ‘sanctification.’
If justification means forgiveness of our sins and regeneration in Christ, which means being born again, sanctification means being conformed to the image of God’s Son until we attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. That’s what we also need to hunger and thirst for.
After we’re justified and born again, we still seek after righteousness in another sense: we want to be sanctified. Those who have this desire cry in their hunger and thirst, “Lord, help me to be righteous in my character! Lord, please form the image of Christ in me!”
They continue to go before God in prayer. “Lord! Please keep my heart righteous and pure. Let no temptation rule over me. Correct my perspective according to Yours. Help me to be Your holy temple through which Your righteousness and glory can be revealed to those around me. Help me proclaim Your truth and live my life in accordance with it!”
That’s what truly blessed people hunger and thirst for— not only for justification or regeneration, but for sanctification and spiritual growth. That’s the desire we need to recover as Christians.
Do you have this desire to become more like Jesus in every aspect of your life? Or are you only satisfied with the fact that your sins were forgiven?
In that sense, hungering and thirsting are truly blessings given to God’s people. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we’ll experience God’s grace and love and righteousness completely filling and changing our lives.
Seek First His Kingdom And His Righteousness
Now, I want us to talk about one more kind of righteousness we should hunger and thirst for as Christians. True Christians not only long to be justified and sanctified in their own lives, but they’re also captured by the desire to see God’s righteousness being revealed and His kingdom being built up on earth.
They want to see God’s reign in every corner of the world. So they continue to pray, “Let Your kingdom come! Let Your will be done! Let Your holy name be lifted up, glorified, and proclaimed throughout the world.”
Those who have this kind of desire are devoted to participating in God’s mission for the world. They surrender their entire lives to Him so that He can have control and work through them for His kingdom. They know that they are called to become kingdom makers in the world and they are very thankful for that.
So they seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. They are not indifferent to those who don’t yet know God’s righteousness. And, out of God’s love and compassion overflowing from their hearts, they continue to make Him known to others around them. That’s the last kind of righteousness we should hunger and thirst for.
“They Will Be Filled”
It is good for us to keep hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It’s different from our natural hunger and thirst because Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. Hungering and thirsting are painful, but we can joyfully hunger and thirst because we know that we’ll be completely filled and eternally satisfied.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (Jn 6:35, 54-46)
We don’t hunger and thirst for things that we may not get. We hunger and thirst based on God’s promise of true satisfaction. So, let’s continue to go before God asking for hearts that hunger and thirst for righteousness and God’s kingdom. There we’ll find true eternal satisfaction and transformation.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us this precious opportunity to read Your word and learn from it.
Lord, we humbly go before You, asking for Your righteousness. We profess that we can’t stand before You because of our sins and that we can’t be made righteous on our own. So, rather than trying to earn our own righteousness out of our works, we rely on You and what You’ve done to make us righteous through Christ Jesus.
Please let our hearts and minds be open to Your truth. Give us Your perspective so that we may long for what we should hunger and thirst for as Your children.
As we seek You, Lord, we pray that You continue to be with us and work in us so that we can bear Your righteousness in our lives and so that we see Your will, Your righteousness, and Your kingdom being revealed through our lives.
We thank You, Lord.
We love you, Lord. We pray in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
1. What do you desire most nowadays? What makes you long for it?
2. What do you think makes Christians hunger and thirst for righteousness? Have you felt the same kind of spiritual hunger and thirst in your life? How did that desire change your life?