|A Study of the Sermon on the Mount (Part Four)|
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)
We understand from this statement from Christ that there is a blessing we can have by simply desiring something. We do not read here that we are blessed only when we obtain righteousness – and indeed we cannot ever obtain it completely. However, in the quest of desiring this from God, of desiring to shed our selfish, petty, envious, and vindictive ways, of wanting to walk in the example of Jesus Christ, we find a tremendous blessing. There is a blessing from heaven, if we seek heavenly things. What we aspire to be is important and the yearning to be like Christ brings forth good fruit in our lives. The following Scriptures are applicable:
"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…" Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45 (NKJV)
Let us not confuse this with the imputed righteousness we have from Christ. In the supernatural aspect of our spiritual existence, we are pure because of what Jesus did for us on the cross in God’s eyes. However, in the natural aspect we still have the sinful, human disposition which we all struggle with. This is somewhat explained by the Apostle Paul in the following verse:
"For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." Romans 7:15 (NKJV)
We all experience this, but when we do things we know are not pleasing to God, do we hate them, as Paul did and desire to do the opposite? God is saying that there is a blessing in simply desiring to do good. There is a blessing in having the right attitude, even if the event cannot be accomplished. King David wanted to build the temple, but was not allowed to. Nevertheless God told him that having the thought was good, as Solomon, David’s son says, in 1King 8:18 (NKJV) "But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.’"
So the road to heaven is paved with good intentions, and every good deed will be greatly rewarded, contrary to the perversion of these concepts we hear today. Nevertheless, hungering and thirsting for righteousness means more than we might consider at first glance, and the depth of meaning is revealed in the grammatical composition of the Greek language in which it was first written.
How Much Do We Want Righteousness?
Grammatically, righteousness in this passage is in the accusative, rather than in the genitive form, although the genitive is the typical form one would use for such an expression. This means that something much more intense is being expressed than we might understand from the simple English. For the unusual use of the accusative literally means that one is hungering and thirsting for the whole thing. In other words, the concept here is that the person is not simply hungry for a meal, but for all the food that is available. He or she does not simply desire a drink of water, but rather all the water that exists in the world. The desire that God rewards, in this case, is a desire for a righteousness that is supernatural and otherworldly and godlike. And the terms here mean that the person must want it very badly – the implication is that he or she must want it more than anything else.
Let us then consider whether or not we personally want this type of righteousness. Perhaps some of us have never even considered it before, but others are striving for it constantly. What do we dream about? When we take the time to reflect, what is it that we truly want? Is it a new house or car, or a promotion at work? Is it a husband or wife? Perhaps respect where we work? Is it some pleasure in which we indulge ourselves in – is that the great desire of our heart? If in ministry, is it the large church, where people can hardly find a place to sit? Are we constantly grinding because the church does not grow fast enough? Or is it acceptance from some group or individual – do we feel left out and want to be recognized? Perhaps instead it is a successful business. Maybe it is the desire to have enough money to go on a vacation to some exotic locale. Regardless of what it is, the question is, what are we preoccupied with? What are our desires?
We might say that we certainly desire righteousness, and think of it as a perfunctory matter, believing that essentially everyone does. In this way of thinking, we reduce it down to something nominal. It simply becomes a vague desire that stays in the recesses of our minds but never becomes a specific objective. It is merely a wistful longing, but not something given much thought. This is not what Christ is talking about. A lukewarm, fuzzy thought of righteousness which does not drive us to a determination to live for God, is a travesty of what Christ is describing here. The desire Jesus speaks about is an intense craving for righteousness, which puts us on a path towards His will for our lives. It does not mean that we have arrived, nor does it even mean that we have attained to a particular moral or spiritual plateau. Rather, it refers to a state of mind, a way of thinking, a way of looking at life and approaching it, a concept of who we are and where we are going that is not reflective of where we are presently.
In other words, whether a person is a minister who has been saved since childhood and is advanced in understanding spiritual matters, or a drug addict who has just gotten saved, and has hardly read the Bible, and is fighting the physiological need for the next fix, either can desire righteousness with this great intensity that brings a blessing. You see, it matters not where on the road one happens to be – all that matters is that one is on the road and walking with determination to the destination where Christ’s purity exists. However, as one travels that road, it must be that there is never a satisfaction with life anywhere along it. Rather, there is always the desire to become more than we are – to become better than we are, and to never "rest on our laurels," even if we experience a great victory.
Partial Goodness is Not the Goal
In the concept of desiring all of the food and all of the water, we begin to understand that Jesus is telling us that the blessing is found in craving purity in everything we do. Moreover, the craving here is much stronger than some of us might understand, if we have never experienced real hunger and thirst. Many people in the Western world have never gone without a meal or a drink of water except voluntarily. Consequently, we do not quite grasp the concept of hunger and thirst in which a person is desperately seeking. Many Christians who have been imprisoned and starved, have found it difficult to keep their minds off food. In the same manner, do we find ourselves thinking often about righteousness? Or is it rather an afterthought?
Understanding the Promise
Some of us live a relatively good Christian life, but we are all lacking in some areas, are we not? And is not the promise predicated on seeking the whole of righteousness? This leaves out our affinity for balancing the books between our good and bad deeds. It leaves out our excuses for allowing portions of our lives to be out of the canopy of God’s perfect will. A person can be gifted and use those gifts for God, but if the person is cold to other people, his or her goodness is not complete. Someone else can be compassionate and caring, but overlook some of the basic rules by which we are supposed to conduct ourselves as Christians, and therefore their goodness is not complete. The promise requires that we search for the "hidden leaven" in our lives, even as the Hebrews were instructed to do for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The implication is that our faults are hidden from us, and we must be careful to look at our own lives in an open-minded manner, if we are to be complete in the righteousness we seek. Compromise negates the blessing.
The Blessing of Being Filled
What then does all this get us? The promise is that we will be filled, but what exactly does that mean? The word used here is chortazo, and in Greek it means "to feed with herbs, grass, hay, to fill, satisfy with food," and "to fulfill or satisfy the desire of any one." The first picture here is of an animal who has been fully fed. Sheep who have eaten to the full rest in the field in contentment. Animals are satisfied with food – and being sated with food brings them a sense of well-being.
We might try food also, but it will not have the same affect for us. Our contentment can only come from the One who said, in John 15:11, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." Search as we may in the world, the deepest longings in our hearts can only be filled by Christ. And He is promising here to fulfill our desire for satisfaction if we desire His righteousness with all of our hearts. These are the conditions He has set forth, and although we may attempt another path, there is no other, for we also read "There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the Lord." Proverbs 21:30 (NKJV)
The blessing of God can only come as He has prescribed, and any attempt to circumvent His ways are in vain. These words came from Christ’s mouth on that mountain one glorious day, like brilliant diamonds falling from heaven, and they still shine from the heavens to give us wisdom that was hidden until He spoke that day, as Isaiah had prophesied. "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world." Matthew 13:35. Let us then not discount them simply because we have become too worldly-minded and cynical to recognize the truth. For everything He has promised will come true, even as we read in 1Kings 8:56 (NKJV) "…There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised…" And His promises for us are uplifting and encouraging, as we read, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecclessiastes 3:11. And, "But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. Proverbs 4:18.
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