Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Mt 5:6 (AV)
The first three beatitudes showed us the more negative aspects of our situation -- the bankruptcy, poverty and arrogant selfishness of our hearts, and our desperate need of God's grace. Here Jesus encourages us to seek the positive righteousness which God has made available to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The righteousness is firstly that which is `of God by faith' (Rom 3:22) -- Christ's righteousness imputed to us when we trust in him and in his perfect work for us on the Cross (2 Cor 5:21). But there is another righteousness we are to seek, equally of his grace alone -- the righteousness of heart and life produced in us by his sanctifying Holy Spirit, freeing us from the power of sin, from the very desire to sin, and emancipating us from self and self-concern, in other words, a longing to be like Jesus. As J I Packer points out in Keep in step with the Spirit, the pursuit of holiness, though a Christian priority, is commonly neglected by Christians today `as evidenced by the man-centredness of our godliness and our insensitivity to the holiness of God himself'. God intends us to be holy in thought, motive, speech and action.
And what of our concern for God's just and righteous reign in his world? in our homes, our hospitals, our churches, our cities? to say nothing of the wider world, be it in the favoured west or in developing countries? How much do we hunger and thirst for righteousness there? Do we care enough to pray, to give, to go?
God's promise is that those who hunger and thirst shall be satisfied and filled. Why then do we know so little of his fullness? Perhaps it is, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, that we often seek the wrong thing, happiness and blessing rather than righteousness. Happiness sought directly, like a will-o'-the-wisp, will always elude us. We are to seek righteousness, not happiness. Or perhaps our desire to be righteous is but transient and superficial; `to be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to know what is in his heart towards me' (J N Darby).
Paradoxically, `the Christian is one who at one and the same time is hungering and thirsting, and yet he is filled. And the more he is filled the more he hungers and thirsts' (D Martyn Lloyd-Jones).
O Lord, you have been made sin for me that I might be made righteous. Give me a hunger for true holiness, that I may know your fullness here and hereafter.
Further reading: 1 Cor 1:26-31. Eph 3:14-21.