Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
I have a really healthy appetite. Unfortunately, it’s usually for the wrong kind of food. My work commitments often take me away from home and when I’m on the road, fast food outlets are never far away. Grabbing a burger or some fried chicken always seems easier than going to the effort of seeking out a healthy alternative. The reality is, I don’t have enough desire for the food that’s good for me.
Jesus uses the language of appetite to describe a characteristic of his people. In the Sermon on the Mount, he lists different character traits of believers or marks of ‘blessedness.’ So his Kingdom belongs to the poor or spiritually bankrupt (v3), to those who mourn over sin (v4), to the meek (v5) and to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (v6).
We all hunger and thirst for something; be it a relationship, an education, a career, wealth, respect, etc. But Jesus says blessed are those who eagerly desire righteousness, that is whatever conforms to the revealed will of God . Those who hunger and thirst for it are in a state of being blessed, for they’re citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In recent weeks, I’ve wondered if this desire is a mark of my life. Am I hungering for every aspect of my life to conform to God’s will? Is that what I thirst for? Beyond myself, am I eager for and working for justice and righteousness in society? The Holy Spirit has convicted me that, so often, this isn’t the condition of my heart. If you recognise this too, then we need to consider how to increase our appetite, so that we don’t desire to drink from the broken cisterns which never satisfy (Jeremiah 2:13), but instead long for God’s righteousness.
First, this process begins with a recognition that this is not about how to be in the right with God. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness isn’t the means by which we enter the Kingdom, but rather a characteristic of those already in it. It should be a mark of those who already have “the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phillipians 3:9).
Secondly, we need to recognise the danger of seeking our own righteousness, rather than God’s. Is my motivation to be respectable and part of the ‘Christian in-crowd’, or is it to please God and God alone? Am I more concerned with God’s reputation or my own? In speaking of Israel, Paul says “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:3). We need, then, to carefully discern which righteousness we are hungering after.
This week our desires will undoubtedly try to pull us in all sorts of directions and we will be tempted to turn from God’s righteousness in the ways we think, act and speak. To fight against this, let’s ask God to enlarge our appetite, so that we desire his righteousness more than the deceitful pleasures of sin.
The great news is, when we do hunger for righteousness Jesus promises that he will satisfy this desire. In this life our thirst for righteousness won’t be completely quenched, of course. If it were, then there would be no reason to keep hungering and thirsting. But in the new creation – when only God’s true righteousness will reign – we will be completely filled.
 See Vine’s complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words