Have you ever been hungry? I mean really, really hungry? I have been blessed enough in my life that I have never known true, brink of starvation hunger. Now, when I was a teenager, I might have argued this point. It seemed I was always hungry and could never get enough to eat. (Proof is in the half-loaf of bread and box of cereal I would eat every morning for breakfast). My mother swore that our refrigerator came with a teenager's rear-end hanging on the door.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." The phrase is so familiar to the mature Christian we often skim over it without a second thought. But if there's anything that I'm starting to learn, none of Jesus' words are to be taken lightly. His words recorded in scripture were never spoken casually. They were pre-meditated, intended for His followers, who millennia later would read them. I like Arthur W. Pink's term for the beatitudes. "Spiritual torpedoes," intended to explode in the depths of our soul when we least expect them. So it is with this beatitude and myself.
I am often harder on myself than I should be. I kick myself every time I sin. Every time I lose my temper I feel terrible afterwards. I blame myself, demean myself and all but fully convince myself that God's grace can't reach me. That's where this beatitude explodes into hope. Jesus doesn't say, "blessed are those who have attained righteousness" but rather those who hunger for it are to be blessed. I don't have to be perfectly righteous to attain God's blessing, I simply must hunger for, dare I say crave, perfection.
What do you do when you are hungry? I know what I do. I eat. When you hunger for righteousness then your desire will be to do right actions. That is the only way to saistfy your appetite, nothing else will do. And like the ever-hungry teenager, our appetite for righteousness must be perpetual. We must continue to grow in Christ, just like in order to stay physically healthy we must eat on a regular basis. God wants us to grow spiritually, so one meal of right actions may saisfy for a short time, but before too long, the Holy Spirit prompts us to another. In this way we begin to strengthen our walk with Christ.
But there is another benefit of this blessing. Here the Great Physician gives us the prescription for defeating sin. Most of our sins are ingrained in our habits. We do them so often they become second-nature. Then we complain to God when we can't break our cycle of sinful addiction. If you want to break a habit, you must replace it with another. Here, Jesus challenges us to replace our hunger/addiction for sin with a hunger/addiction for righteousness. And here is where the blessing truly takes hold, "they shall be filled." How often I have counseled those who thought that their sin would fulfill some desire in their life only to find that it left them empty inside. Whether it be a teenage girl who thought sleeping with her boyfriend would bring emotional fulfillment, or the young man who thought that drugs would give him an escape from the troubles of this world, or countless others, they all had the same empty feeling inside. Only a hunger for righteousness can be filled. Need proof? Try Revelation 7:16 which tells us that the righteous in heaven will never hunger or thirst again. Jesus gave a similar promise to a woman at a well in John 4.
So the next time your stomach grumbles, think "What do I really hunger for?" Your answer will determine if you will be filled or not.