Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8
(Prepared by Susan Holmes)
There has been a hunger in me lately for more of my heavenly Father, that is accompanied by the realization of how little I truly know Him. Christ taught that for those who were willing to dig in and follow Him, their hunger would be satisfied and their thirst would be quenched. But what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness … and what would stop that craving and leave one empty?
The natural step in hungering and thirsting is tasting … “taste and see that the Lord is good”. But even tasting isn’t the first step. In order for something to appeal to our sense of hunger, to ignite our appetite, it usually must appeal to at least a couple of our senses … our sight & smell. An old saying in advertising is “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. Advertisers know that if they can get inside our mind through our senses & convince us of what we desire, that they have whetted our appetite and then will quench it with the meat of what they are offering. Usually the unsatisfying reality of their ‘steak’ is temporarily overlooked in the lingering emotional appeal of their ‘sizzle’. Sadly, many, including myself, have known the unsatisfying nature of this world’s offerings –both on the street and inside the church doors.
But my Father’s kingdom operates on a different level. He isn’t interested in offering us a superficial appeal to our appetite. He wants us to grasp hold of what will last … what will satisfy like nothing this world has to offer. He wants us to live for a higher kingdom and therefore, He offers us the steak … that which will sustain. The Narnia author, C S Lewis knew this hunger for righteousness, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”.
I’ve noticed quite a thread in Christ’s sermon in Matthew 5, & 6. He has woven righteousness throughout this tapestry in such a way that it’s importance cannot be denied or removed … and the promise that accompanies it is satisfying indeed.
In this fourth lesson He assures us that the reward of our hunger will be satisfaction. But He doesn’t stop there. Christ goes on to let us know what is going to satisfy our hunger … the kingdom … His kingdom … His precious presence. In verse 6, if we hunger for it (righteousness) we will be filled. But there is a cost to that fulfillment. True righteousness will come with a price … persecution. How’s that for sizzle? Christ so completely understands our frail humanity! He sifts our hunger to determine if it is still looking for a temporary, this-world pleasure or an eternal satisfaction. If we are willing to endure the persecution that comes with Kingdom hunger we will inherit the promise … the kingdom … His Kingdom. We will discuss more about that in a later lesson.
This righteousness we are to hunger for comes with more than just persecution. It demands a higher standard. The Old Testament had it’s standard. The religious order filled the standard in the Old Testament and they made the sacrifice for our errand ways. But it wasn’t enough for an eternal kingdom. Enter the New Testament and Christ has set a new standard. He became our sacrifice and through grace raised the bar. We have grabbed hold of grace as if it were our way around the law. But Christ didn’t come to abolish the law … He came to fulfill it. In doing so He set a higher standard for those who chose to embrace it. In verse 20 He informs us that this righteousness for which we must be willing to endure the persecution also must exceed that of the scribes & Pharisees. The sacrifice of law was a sacrifice of duty. The righteousness carried through from the Old Testament religious order wasn’t enough. Christ isn’t interested in us following Him simply out of duty. Duty has its limitations when persecution hits. Duty appeals to our mind and can convince us to turn back. He wants us to follow out of a desire for His Kingdom that can only be filled by His righteousness. He wants us to follow out of a passion for His presence … His kingdom obtained through His righteousness. Such a passion cannot be filled elsewhere.
The righteousness we hunger for has to be pure. Scripture assures us that our God is a jealous God. He isn’t content to share our heart with this world’s desires. We can’t hunger for this world’s pleasure and our Father’s pleasure and expect to enjoy both. Matthew 6:1 warns us not to put our righteousness on display to please man or we are in danger of missing our reward. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” This doesn’t mean that we don’t live out our hunger for righteousness in our day-to-day lifestyle. It means that true righteousness is cultivated in the secret places of the heart where only Christ enters. What is nurtured there will not seek out man’s approval. When we have sought out and truly embraced Him and His Kingdom during the darkest and loneliest areas of our walk we will experience a fulfillment that makes any applause this world offers pale in comparison.
Christ finishes Chapter 6 with ‘all this and heaven too’. “ But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (6:33)
Simply put: Hunger for righteous = satisfaction (5:6). Enduring persecution for righteousness = the promise of the kingdom (5:10). Commitment to a higher standard of righteousness = fulfillment of the promise, entrance to His kingdom (5:20). Pure and sincere righteousness = our Father’s reward (6:1). His righteousness above all = fulfillment & satisfaction (6:33). And it is only our Father’s reward, His pleasure & presence that truly satisifies.
This world’s sizzle or the ‘out of this world’ meat of our Father’s kingdom? There really is no contest when examined from an eternal perspective. In spite of all the opportunities placed in front of us on a daily basis, there is nothing that satisfies like the taste of the kingdom reserved for those who choose to passionately pursue Him with a whole heart. Neither worldly illusions nor religious duty can replace satisfaction of our Father’s presence. I invite you to taste the righteousness of Christ. And know that you will not be disappointed.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:1-3