When God breathed life into Adam, he became a living soul and body (Gen. 2:7). When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, access to the tree of life was cut off and death entered into the world (Gen. 3:24; Rom. 5:12-14). Man’s creatureliness and frailty were revealed when the paradise of Eden was lost.
Earth became hostile to human life. At the fall, tragedy entered the world. Where once no disease was known, plagues appeared. Where once no calamity threatened, natural disasters appeared. Where once no hunger or thirst existed, starvation and dehydration appeared. Man’s survival instincts kicked in. These became the telltale signs of humanness—hunger, thirst, fatigue, panic, and others. These sensations keep us alive. The longer we ignore them the more urgently their claxons ring. Hunger drives us to eat. Fatigue compels us to sleep. Panic drives us from danger.
We know the feeling of missing a few meals or fasting a few days. So, when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6), we understand. Just as hunger and thirst drive us to life-giving nourishment, our spirits’ hunger and thirst ought to drive us to spiritual nourishment—the righteousness of God.
This desire for righteousness comes from the heart brought low in meekness. We recognize our smallness in comparison to the greatness of God, and we long to share in his righteousness.
Jesus develops the theme of righteousness throughout the remainder of his sermon, as well as his ministry. Christians living in righteousness invoke persecution (5:10). Their righteousness must exceed the perceived piety of the Pharisees (5:20). It must be genuine and lived without hypocrisy and express itself in righteous acts (6:1). God’s righteousness must be the object, focus, and goal of Christian desire (6:33).
When we hunger and thirst for righteousness it means we yearn for a relationship with God. In this pursuit, we embrace our need to be righteous before him. We also desire to live righteously before others that they may see God in us.
Desiring righteousness doesn’t end with our personal standing. Rather it desires to see righteousness in the lives of others. As righteousness spreads it allows God’s grace to reign in our lives, communities, and nations (Rom. 5:21). Righteousness is right living before God.
When our lives are parched by sin and our spirits grow weary of the starvation without God, our appetites for righteousness grow. When it does, nothing else will fill the ache. The world’s treasures cannot fill the God-shaped void in our soul. May God help us to hunger for righteousness.