I think that the next beatitude in our path is Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
There are quite a few ways that you can interpret this verse, and I am just going to give you the one that I think is the best. It may not be what Jesus meant or Jesus would have taught, but it will be biblical, and it won’t be for a lack of trying to understand what Jesus meant. Before we dig super deep into the text, I want to tell you a story from my first backpacking trip.
I was backpacking for the first time ever by myself. I had set up the trip to hike four high peaks in two days and do 20 or so miles of hiking. One of the big things that is different about backpacking from normal hiking is you need to carry quite a bit more food, which I did, but these aren’t exactly home cooked meals. If I remember correctly, I ate tuna from a pouch and pasta from a pouch and some Cliff bars. Needless to say, it left much to be desired. I remember being so ready for some real food when I was on those last few miles of the hike I had already picked out what my first real food would be – a Stewart’s milkshake! Now this was mostly because of convenience (it was the closest thing to me on my way home), but all the same, I was really looking forward to it. To this day, it was probably the best milkshake I have ever had.
I was hungering and thirsting for that milkshake. Was that milkshake really the best milkshake I have ever had? Probably not. But given my circumstances, I still haven’t had a milkshake that tasted better. I was tired, my feet hurt, I missed real food, and I still needed to fix a nasty gash I got in my shin the first mile of the trip. I was uncomfortable. In the time period we are in, being uncomfortable is not popular. Actually, I think in most time periods, people are averse to being uncomfortable.
Hungering and thirsting are not quite synonyms with comfort. Actually, when I even think of hungering and thirsting, I am uncomfortable. We want our every need met and to know exactly where we are going. The condition of the person in Matthew 5:6 is the state of a person who is uncomfortable. That person doesn’t have his/her every need met and is in wanting. A person suffering or going without is a description of something that God wants to reward. I think that doesn’t get enough airtime anymore.
Now on to the next part of the verse, I will seek to define “righteousness” as God would define it. Righteousness in my mind has always been something that you are as a result of completing all the necessary checklists given to you by the rules. From childhood on up, this is always what I thought. When I thought righteousness, I thought Pharisee. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus clearly is not talking about righteousness the way that I have always thought of it. Matthew 5:20 says, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” I think Pharisee when I look for the ideal behavior for righteousness, and here it is saying that I need even more than that to get into the Kingdom of heaven. Remember righteousness was like the Pharisees’ game. They knew all the rules and were tithing down to their herbs and spices. I ain’t seen any of you putting mint into the offering. Or maybe Jesus is saying that my definition is wrong.
Romans 10:1-10 explains the idea of righteousness that I think Jesus had intended. No longer is it a righteousness staked in our ability to do good. Righteousness now is the righteousness that we humbly accept as a gift from God through the death of His Son, and what God asks of us in return for this righteousness is that we live our lives with the belief that there is a God or faith. This leads away from the rulebook and towards doing what is right. This allows us to ask ourselves what is right with God’s love and our belief in Him. It gives us freedom.
To conclude, what this verse says is that we will be satisfied. When I think of satisfaction, faith, and waiting, I think of Is. 55:1-3. In this passage, God is telling His people why do you believe in what is not real and not come to me for what is satisfying. Is. 55 gives us the picture of God asking us to come to what is real and what satisfies. He asks us to abide in His rules and laws because of belief in Him. Is. 55 is giving us ahead of Jesus this new way of looking at righteousness.
So, I pray that we can walk acknowledging God in all of our ways and live through that new righteousness that God has given to us through the uncomfortable times, enduring for the satisfaction we know we will have in God.