“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" Matthew 5:6.
Two themes are important for healthy Christianity: first a pursuit of godly piety (something not spoken of or discussed as often as it should be); second, the emphasis given here by the Lord Jesus Christ of spiritual satisfaction. This is to spring from being one who "hungers and thirsts for righteousness". Does this describe you? Do you understand what Jesus Christ means? Do you pray for what Jesus teaches here?
There are five important components to this Bible verse.
1. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity who became man, who is teaching here. Therefore we should sit up, listen and learn to what he says.
2. This Beatitude frames a description of the blessed person (one of 9 Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5).
3. This beatitude describes a spiritual condition which is to "hunger and thirst" and this is paralleled to our daily experience of the common daily exercise of eating and drinking everyday food. We all understand that no matter how much a delicious meal we may eat today, tomorrow we will have a renewed hunger for more water and food. It does not go away, except in times of sickness or ill health.
4. The little word "righteousness" is often over-looked in this verse. Righteousness is to be the daily and lifelong pursuit of the blessed man. We will come back to this in a moment.
5. This person who will be satisfied. To daily hunger and thirst for righteousness is the path to lasting spiritual satisfaction.
This all adds up, in order to aid us to know how to pray for ourselves and our families, in a way that we know that our God will answer. To turn around Matthew 5:6 into a prayer, this is a sure path and guide to heaven.
What a grand theme this word is! It is beyond the scope of this small blog post to fully unfold and unpack the meaning of this word. First this word righteousness is primarily bound up with the person of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of justification. We observe that three times in the Book of Acts that the Lord Christ is described as the "Righteous One" (Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14). Therefore, we are to hunger and thirst for this aspect of our Saviour and Redeemer, while noting that Righteousness is bound up with the person and work of the Christ, not least his atonement made upon the cross.
Second and in addition, a further aspect of "Righteousness" is that we as Christians should seek to live lives that please our Saviour, and that we hunger and thirst to live righteously as well. Paul prayed that the church in Philippi, so that they would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness" and again for the Colossians he prayed that they would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord". We must never assume that everything we do is walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. To assume this is what is called self-righteousness. Daily we must be renewed in repentance and faith.
This truth regarding "Righteousness" in this verse is most helpfully and precisely summarised in the Westminster Confession (11:2), in what is one of my favourite statements in the Confession:
"Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love".
These are two sides of the same coin metaphorically and we should hunger and thirst for both. However, it is a sinner finding their rest in Christ for salvation that is the wellspring of eternal satisfaction. What a glorious gospel it is!
May we all grow to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the glory of God.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.
Thomas Watson, "The Beatitudes".