(Matthew 5:6; Luke 6:21)
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Hunger is a constant in our lives. We are born hungry, we wake up every day hungry, we come home from work hungry; it never ends. We can stuff ourselves to the point of bursting, swearing we will never eat again, only to find ourselves rummaging around in the refrigerator a few hours later.
The same thing goes for spiritual hunger. We have a continuous need for the things of God. We ask for wisdom, we ask for mercy, we ask for grace, and even though God is faithful to grant us these things, there is always a need for more. In fact, the more we experience of God, the more we desire him.
When Jesus talks about hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I don’t think he is talking about a desire to be righteous. We don’t hunger for what we want to become, we hunger for what we want to consume. This is the kind of yearning expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” And also by David in Psalm 63:1, “Earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” To hunger for righteousness means to hunger for God himself, because righteousness only comes from God – it’s a product of his very nature.
Hunger is also a sign of health and vitality, just as a loss of appetite is a sign of illness. If we have no appetite for God, if we have no desire to seek the things of his kingdom, it is an indication that things are not right with us. When Jesus said, “woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry” (Luke 6:25) he was speaking to those who felt no desire for God because they derived all their comfort and satisfaction from the things of the world. Keep in mind that Jesus was speaking to a group of his disciples when he gave this warning, not a group of Pharisees or unbelievers, so it should not be taken lightly by us today.
It can be surprisingly easy to fall into the trap of feeling “well fed “when we live inside such a virtual smorgasbord of worldly pleasures. There are so many things here to entice and distract us. We have jobs and responsibilities which feed our egos and make us feel important and influential. We have passions and talents which compel us to create beautiful things, making us feel clever and talented. We have people in our lives whom we love deeply and who love us, making us feel cherished and vital. None of these things may be bad in and of themselves, but if they stave off our desire for God and keep us from seeking the things of his kingdom, they can become dangerous.
Two things I have asked of you; do not deny me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me; lest I be full, deny you, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NHEB)