Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6 NIV)
My first thought as I was studying this beatitude was that we cannot look to Jesus to find an example of what hungering and thirsting look like. Then I thought about the temptations in the wilderness and realized that once again Jesus is the best example and the fulfillment of this blessing. He fully realized and lived out a deep desire to be filled with righteousness. The simple reason that He seems a poor example is that He was successful.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “They might have been good, even great in goodness, but for the malady of not wanting”. We desire all sorts of things. What we desire is an expression of worship. Our desires dictate what we pursue, what we are willing to sacrifice for, and what we are willing to submit to. The challenge Jesus presents in this beatitude is one of priority. Where does being good and wanting to always do what is right fit on our list of wants? Stevenson seems to be saying that many don’t want to be good, so they aren’t.
For almost everyone who lives in the United States the experience of hungering and thirsting for food and water is rare. We have sufficient food in the refrigerator and pantry to last weeks if not months. We turn on the tap and out flows a seemingly limited supply of water. Many of the people Jesus spoke to were not so blessed. It is not hard to imagine that many listening to Jesus on this day were listening with empty stomachs and dry mouths.
Have you ever desired something so much that you would do anything to get it? Unfortunately, when we think about this question the images that come to mind are of addicts pursuing their next fix. I just finished reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.
Wilbur and Orville Wright had an insatiable desire to fly. They gave up just about everything that didn’t move them toward that goal. While the book is worth reading, why aren’t there more examples of men and women who have this kind of single-minded focus on pursuing righteousness?
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NIV)
Scriptures for Further Study:
Psalm 19:7-11 and Psalm 119:97-104
- Do you have a sweet tooth? What is your favorite sweet treat?
- How strong is your desire for this treat? Have you ever given up something else to get it?
- What does David say is of greatest value?
- What would David give up to possess these things?
- How are these things acquired?
- What would you give up to possess these things?
- What is the longest you have gone without eating?
- Was Jesus able to turn the stones to bread? If He was, then why didn’t He?
- Which is more important to Jesus: physical food or spiritual food? Why?
- Which is more important to you: physical food or spiritual food? Why?
- What would you need to change in your life to shift this priority?
- What do you desire that isn’t as essential as food and water that still takes priority over the pursuit of righteousness?
- How unusual was it for a wealthy and powerful man to climb a tree?
- What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done to get something you really wanted?
- What did Jesus ask of Zacchaeus? How did Zacchaeus respond?
- What is Jesus asking of you? How should you be responding?
- This passage describes the cycle of temptation. Where does temptation begin?
- How are your desires connected to your actions?
- How would your desires change if you pursued different ways of acting and developed new habits?
- What is the opposite of what James is describing?
Here is an attempt to write out the opposite of what James has written:
When you are called to pursue God you should say, “God loves me.” For God is love and goodness. He is always right. You are drawn to Him when you get a taste of Him and discover that He is the sweetest thing you have ever experienced. This taste conceives a deep desire within you and that desire gives birth to worship which, when it is full-grown, gives birth to life.
- Has this been your experience? What action could you take today to increase your desire for God?
This is the best book that I have read on this topic and I think it directly addresses the challenge of this beatitude.
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