Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Part 5 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 5:6

You can listen to this sermon here.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

Hungering and Thirsting

Most of us really don’t understand what it’s like to hunger or thirst. How many of us have gone twenty-four hours without eating or drinking?

To “hunger and thirst” means to have an intense longing for something. Many people live their lives longing for things (e.g., wealth) and are never “satisfied.”

What Kind of Righteousness? 

To what kind of righteousness does the fourth beatitude refer? In Scripture, there are three kinds of righteousness: (1) legal righteousness (known as justification), (2) moral righteousness (known as sanctification), and (3) social righteousness (e.g., helping the poor). [1] The word “righteousness” occurs four more times in the Sermon on the Mount.

  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:10). 
  • “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). 
  • “Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (6:1). 
  • “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33). 

The context suggests that “righteousness” in the fourth beatitude refers to moral righteousness. D. A. Carson defines this righteousness as “a pattern of life in conformity to God’s will.” [2] Basically, this kind of righteousness is right living.

Citizens of God’s kingdom are to have an intense longing to obey God's will. 

To some, desiring moral righteousness is like desiring vegetables. In other words, obeying God’s will is something a Christian should do (like eating vegetables), but it’s not really enjoyable. However, the closer you get to God, the more desirable righteousness becomes (see Isa. 6:1-5).

Driven to Action

If you’re hungry or thirsty, what do you do? You get something to eat or drink. Your desire (for either food or drink) drives you to action. What if you were stranded on a deserted island and you discovered some fruit high up in a tree? You would do everything you could do to get that fruit. In the same way, our hunger and thirst for righteousness should drive us to action.

Satisfied, Yet Not Satisfied

Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness “shall be satisfied.” We who have put their faith in Christ are both satisfied (because of our justification) [3] and not satisfied (because of our imperfect sanctification). We look forward to the day when Christ returns when we will be completely satisfied (when sin and injustice will be no more).

Be Like Jesus

When Jesus lived on this earth, he always obeyed the will of the Father. He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Jesus desired to do the Father’s will more than he desired to eat.

To live a life in obedience to God’s will is to be like Jesus. 

Back in the nineties, millions of kids wanted to be like basketball superstar Michael Jordan. So Gatorade made a commercial with Jordan that featured the jingle “Be Like Mike.” [4] Part of the song went like this:

Sometimes I dream that he is me; 
You got to see that’s how I dream to be. 
I dream I move, I dream I groove 
Like Mike, if I could be like Mike.

Kids want to be like their favourite athlete. So Gatorade was hoping kids would think, “If I drink Gatorade, I’ll be like Michael Jordan!” As Christians, we want to be like Jesus. Jesus’ food was to do the Father’s will. We must long for this same food.

[1] John Stott writes about these three kinds of righteousness in The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 44-45.
[2] D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His confrontation with the World, 23.
[3] Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
[4] A digitally remastered version of the commercial was re-aired during this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

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