“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6
This is the last beatitude that focuses on our relationship with God. The remainder will focus on our relationship with other people around us. With that in mind, we find words in this verse that are commonly used to express our greatest desires and needs. This fits well in the progressive stages of our relationship with God that we find in these first four beatitudes as it ends with our continually seeking of the things of God. As the psalmist writes, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 42:1). There will never be a time during our life where we stop growing and seeking after God.
The words, “hunger” and “thirst,” not only point out a desire but a need. Hunger and thirst are associated reactions to the need for food and drink. They remind us of our limited ability to sustain ourselves and the need for outside resources. The same is true about our spiritual life. As we cannot supply food and water for our physical body within ourselves, neither can we supply for our spiritual life. God alone is able to supply that which we need in our soul. God alone satisfies our spiritual appetite and God alone is able to quench our thirst for the water of life.
Jesus is concerned that we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. This is a word used throughout the scripture and it is rich in meaning. For us, it particular means to be “made righteous,” “justified,” or one of my favorites, “right-a-fied.” It is the act of God where he takes guilty sinners and pronounces them just and innocent because Jesus has taken their place. It shows the quality of one who is pronounced righteous by the eternal Judge. The righteousness of Christ is placed on us. Paul in the book of Romans discusses righteousness in great detail but in the end we know that we are, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Rom. 3:24).
We must hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness rather than our own. The Old Testament prophet writes, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Is. 64:6). Our innocence is lost due to the power of sin. We stand before quilty without a defense except when we come by faith in Jesus. Then his righteousness is imputed (transferred legally) onto us before God. We are “satisfied” or “filled” by Christ’s righteousness. The moment faith in Christ has come, at that moment, righteousness is declared. The wrath of God is fully satisfied and judgement is becomes a place of reward. Our longing soul is satisfied from it empty and dark state by the decree that we are justified in the sight of God.