New Life in Christ: The Beatitudes for Today V -
“Blessed are the those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)
Knowing what we do not have is vitally important to the welfare of our souls. That has been the point of the first three beatitudes. Poverty of spirit (v. 3), mourning for sin (v. 4), meekness (v. 5) are all attitudes that receive the blessing of God because they understand that we are poor, sinful, and incompetent for life’s challenges alone. Seeing our native bankruptcy places self in the dust and removes all possibility of boasting.
But, having seen our spiritual bankruptcy, it is equally important that we know where to look for true riches. Knowing the depths of our souls’ malnutrition is important if we are to take steps towards spiritual health, but we need more. We must know what kind of food we need that will satisfy, and where to find it. That is the burden of the fourth beatitude. The blessing of Christ falls this time on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We do not normally think of hungering and thirsting as a blessed condition, though the old adage that “hunger is the best sauce” may help us understand Jesus’ point. Why is soul-hunger blessed? Because every taste of righteousness given to the soul is so much sweeter as a result. We savor every morsel of that for which we most passionately hunger. When we glut the appetite of our souls for spiritual nourishment on the white bread of worldly entertainments and sinful pleasures, it may fill a void for a while, like junk food in our bellies, but it cannot ultimately satisfy and will always leave us empty in the end.
Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst for something higher and healthier: we are to crave “righteousness.” That is, we are to crave conformity to the will and ways of God revealed in scripture and embodied in Christ. We are to ache and long to be who God wants us to be, say what God wants us to say, go where God wants us to go. To all who ache and crave holiness, satisfaction is promised. A satiated heart, glutted and content, replete having feasted upon God’s rich grace: that is what Christ offers all who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
And he has appointed the means by which this satisfaction is communicated to us. He has given us the Word of God, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the gift of prayer. Like the dogs in Pavlov’s fabled experiment who came running, salivating, eager for food whenever his bell rang, we must develop a Pavlovian response to the dawning of the Lord’s Day, knowing that when it comes we will have special access to the means Christ has appointed to feed us and nourish us and satisfy us with himself! How many of us miss that feast, or come to church with no appetite, because we have sought our satisfaction elsewhere? Matthew 5:6 reminds us that no one satisfies like Jesus!