“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” - Matthew 5:6
Everyone knows that things are not the way they ought to be. No matter who you ask, there is a common dissatisfaction with the state of the world and a desire for things to be made right. Unfortunately, the common diagnoses for what is ailing society and the recommended treatments are often inaccurate. Most believe that if their preferred political ideology won the day, the world’s problems would be fixed. Others claim that ideologies themselves are the source of our problems and that peace could be found if everybody would just love each other. Unfortunately, both solutions seek their answers in humanity and fail to acknowledge humanity’s innate corruption. The real problem is that humanity has rejected God’s rule over the earth, and the real solution is for God’s rule to be reestablished.
While most seek after man-made solutions in vain, the beatitudes describe those who seek the solution which God has promised to provide. These verses depict those whose experiences would leave them with a gnawing hunger and thirst for the righteousness that God’s coming kingdom would bring and are filled with hope for the time where Jesus will reign as king.
When Christ’s kingdom is established, what is wrong with the world will be made right, and the repentant will be the beneficiaries. Those who recognize that they are completely destitute and dependent on God, who mourn over all that is wrong with the world, and who are humbled before God will one day enter Christ’s kingdom and be comforted by the righteousness that it will bring.
Hunger and Thirst for Who’s Righteousness?
The fourth beatitude summarizes the first half of the beatitudes by stating that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied when Christ’s kingdom is fully established. Because of the themes of the previous beatitudes, viewing this righteousness as the global righteousness which will characterize Christ’s kingdom makes the most sense.
Unfortunately, while most Christians would agree that they ought to hunger and thirst for righteousness, their definition of righteousness is far too narrow. Normally, when Christians talk about their longing for righteousness, the primary felt need is for their own personal holiness. While it is vital that we long for personal righteousness, this beatitude describes the primary need felt within a Christian’s heart as a longing for the righteousness that will characterize the kingdom where God’s holiness will be on display.
It is common for Christians to forget about the hope of God’s holiness being displayed when his righteous rule is established throughout the whole earth. Instead of hungering and thirsting for the day when God’s holiness will be on full display, their longing for righteousness focuses on their personal holiness. While that is a proper – even vital – longing, one must view their personal holiness as a component of the primary goal of seeing God’s holiness displayed in His rule over the earth.
Longing for His Righteousness
For many of us, this may be a paradigm shift in the way we approach the Christian life. It would be worthwhile for the reader to spend a great deal of time reflecting upon the implications of such an attitude as they go well beyond what can be discussed in one devotional. Our deepest longings for the future greatly impact the way we live today.
For example, when one longs primarily for personal righteousness, they may attend a church service as a means to an end, attempting to further themselves along in their journey toward sanctification. Such an individual may leave church with a subtle sense of self-satisfaction, feeling that they have brought themselves one step closer to their final goal. This approach would be sure to lead to legalism and self-righteousness. However, if one hungers and thirsts to see God’s holiness displayed in his rule upon the earth, a church service would give them a small taste of what is to come and increase their appetite.
We lived in a messed-up world. While there are many proposed diagnoses and treatments being offered, those who make such suggestions fail to recognize that our problem is that God’s rule over the earth has been rejected. Thankfully, God has provided the solution. He sent His Son to die on our behalf and bring us into a right relationship with Him, and we have hope that the Son will come again to rule over His redeemed people. We long for that day to come when God’s holiness will be displayed and His righteous rule is established throughout the whole earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Is He Worthy?
It is good to respond to such good news with worship and prayer. Listening to “Is He Worthy” by Shane & Shane would be a good place to start.
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t
Stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)
 Some argue that righteousness is parallel to the Pauline idea of a right standing before God. However, the idea of imputed righteousness is not used within this context. Others argue that the righteousness here corresponds with Matt. 5:10,20; 6:1,33 and is a personal holiness which disciples practice. See Charles Quarles, Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church. Based on the preceding beatitudes it is best to take this as the righteousness that will be established under God’s eschatological rule. This interpretation does not exclude the sense of personal righteousness but presupposes the righteousness of those who will be citizens of God’s kingdom. Thus, this verse anticipates the stress on personal righteousness in the following passages. See Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 93.
 Keep in mind that when we think of God’s holiness, we should have in mind not only his moral perfection and justice but the limitless perfection of all His attributes, including compassion and kindness. As a result, the idea of seeing God’s holiness on display should simultaneously fill us with fearful awe and deepest longing (Mal. 4:1-3; Rev. 21:1-22:5). Furthermore, we must remember that our God is relational, so beholding and enjoying God’s character is the ultimate goal for creation. The fellowship with the triune God which citizens of the kingdom enjoy is the means by which righteousness will be established and God’s holiness will be displayed. See Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith.
 I do not intend to imply that different interpretations of Matthew 5:6 such as the ones discussed in footnote 1 will necessarily lead to legalism. Those who hold such interpretations agree that longing for personal holiness is part of the greater longing for God’s holiness to be displayed. See Quarles, Sermon, 193-194. I am arguing that a Christian is doomed to a life of legalism and/or perpetual spiritual discouragement if their life revolves around the cultivation of their own personal holiness rather than the enjoyment of God’s holiness.