A feeling of emptiness hovers over the first three beatitudes. As we look within we empty ourselves of spiritual pride, mourn for our sin, and offer our battles up to God, becoming submissive to the Lord and gentle with others. But all that emptying leads us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, which is the antithesis of pursuing our personal needs (worldly values). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt 5:6)
We all know what it feels like to be taken advantage of, but to hunger and thirst for righteousness goes beyond grumbling against the darkness. Jesus is talking about craving justice above all else—the kind of desire that doesn’t merely look to the sins of others but gazes inward, at the heart. Though our world is cracked and bent toward injustice, Jesus promises to satisfy those who hunger and thirst, because God, through His kingdom, is bringing perfect righteousness to our world.
Isaiah prophesied about the coming Christ and His righteousness: “But with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.” (Is. 11:4-5)
Paul said, he “count[ed] all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…not having a righteousness of my own…but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:9-10). Paul hungered and thirsted for knowing the Lord and His righteousness over his own desires and comfort.
It is this hunger and thirst for the Lord’s righteousness that Jesus spoke of: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.'” (John 7:37) It is also the thirst that David spoke of while in the wilderness of Judah: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” (Ps. 63:2)
When we empty ourselves of our spiritual pride, mourn for our sin, and offer our battles up to God, with what shall we fill ourselves? St. Augustine called the Beatitudes the ideal for every Christian life! In his discourse on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, he noted the correspondence of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and their necessity in fulfilling the Beatitudes. For example, one must have the gift of fortitude so one may be courageous in seeking social justice.
The hunger Jesus spoke of could not be satisfied with a mid-morning snack; the thirst was more than an iced drink could quench. Hence, this beatitude issues a challenge. In effect it asks, “How much do you yearn for God’s agenda? Do you want it as much as a starving man craves food or one dying of thirst wants water?”
The Lord is ready to fill us with His fullness, and then we will be satisfied. “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)