Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness — Matthew 5:6
Don't seek happiness. Seek righteousness instead. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, God will satisfy us by grace alone.
Review of Matthew 5:3–5
- First, we must be "poor in spirit." (v.3)
- Then, we must "mourn." (v.4)
- Next, we must be "lowly." (v.5)
Now, we see a transition with a slight change in approach. Jesus changes from three predominately negative elements to an element that is more positive. Instead of examining the problem of the self, we begin to look for a solution.
1. Do not seek happiness.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thrist for righteousness" (v.6a)
Everyone in this world wants to be happy. But in contrast to what the world says, the search is not for happiness and blessing.
- "Happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else."
- Putting happiness before righteousness will lead to misery.
- Those that are truly happy are those who are seeking to be righteous.
Illustration: Patient wants relieve from his pain, but if the physician is only concerned about relieving the man's pain, he is a bad doctor. The duty of the physician is to treat the disease, not the pain.
We are not to seek after pleasure, experiences, or blessedness. Rather, we need to seek righteousness.
2. Seek righteousness instead.
In Paul's epistle to the Romans, Paul uses the term righteousness primarily as a synonym for justification. But here in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, righteousness refers not only to just justification but also sanctification. Notice the next three times Jesus uses the term "righteousness" in this sermon.
- "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:10)
- "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:20)
- "Beware of doing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 6:1)
Righteousness is both being (1) free from the consequences of sin and (2) free from the power of sin. The Christian who is "poor in spirit" and "mourns over sin" will desire to be set free from the power of sin and the very desire of sin. The man who "hungers and thirsts for righteousness," in a negative sense, wants to rid himself of the pollution of sin. In a positive sense, he wants to be holy. "His supreme deisre is to be like Christ."
3. The hunger for righteousness is desperate.
What does it mean "to hunger and thrist?" It means to recognize our desperate need even to the point of pain and pursue until the need is satisfied.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Ps 42:1–2a)
Remember the example of the prodigal son in Luke 15. It was when the prodigal son felt deep-seated hunger that he returns to his father.
But when he came to himself, he said, "How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will rise up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you.'" (Luke 15:17–18)
4. The hunger for righteousness will be satisfied.
"for they shall be satisfied." (v.6b)
When a person desires to be justified by Christ and his righteousness, God immediately satisfies that desire. The man's guilt is removed. Fellowship is restored. Like the father who immediately receives his prodigal son, God sees the righteousness of Christ and no longer sees your sin. That is justification.
But there is also the ongoing continuing process of sanctification through the work of God's Spirit. As we desire to be free from the power of sin, the Holy Spirit begins His work of sanctification.
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13)
So as Christians, we are simultaneously satisfied and still hungering and thristing for our progressive sanctification.
An important truth is implicated here in verse 6. The one who is hungering and thristing for righteousness does not satisfy himself through his own merit or works or effort. The verb translated "shall be satisfied" is in the passive voice. The satisfaction in verse 6, like the comfort in verse 4, comes from God.
The righteousness in God's work of salvation is a free gift from God. This righteousness of God comes by grace alone. This is aptly described in the hymn "Rock of Ages."
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Applications from Matthew 5:6
Four applications to consider:
- Do not seek experiences, pleasures, and earthly comforts.
- Seek God's righteousness instead.
- Recognize our deep-seated hunger and need for righteouness.
- Enjoy God's satisfaction of positional and progressive sanctification.