Since our current sermon series is focused on Jesus' sermon on the mount, we are re-sharing our blog series on the beatitudes.
When is the last time you were hungry or thirsty? As humans, these are needs we must have satisfied. Until our bellies are filled, and our thirst is quenched, we will always be looking for something to take away our God-given appetites.
Today, we aren’t talking about literal hunger and thirst. Instead, we are talking about a metaphorical hunger and thirst. The type of hunger and thirst that drives us to desire something we do not have. For instance, have you ever heard someone use the phrase “money hungry”?
When it comes to the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, it is clear Jesus is not talking about physical hunger or thirst. Instead, he is talking about those who are hungry for God and thirsty for living water.
As we study the Beatitude attitudes, we have already established how Jesus emphasizes righteous character and the blessings which come from righteous living. In the next beatitude, we will dig even deeper into this subject.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”
– Matthew 5:6
The Difference Between Righteous Character and Upright Behavior
In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes righteous character. As Warren Wiersbe explains, “The Pharisees taught that righteousness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. Righteousness could be measured by praying, giving, fasting, etc.” However, in the Beatitudes, Jesus explains how righteousness comes from within a person.
We’ve all known someone who plays by the rules but is not actually a nice person. They might obey the Ten Commandments, but they seem to struggle with loving others. Hence, there is a big difference between upright behavior and righteous character. Having a righteous character does not come by following the rules – it flows out of the heart.
True, Spiritual Righteousness Begins with Our Attitude Towards Sin
Only those who recognize, mourn, and repent of their sin can see their desperate need for the Savior. Only they can truly turn to Jesus and receive forgiveness and spiritual righteousness. Those who take this spiritual step hunger and thirst for righteousness. With the heavy burden of sin and guilt lifted, true Jesus followers crave righteousness just as newborn babes cry for milk.
How Is it Possible to be Righteous but Not Pharisaical [self-righteous]?
It is very easy to think of righteousness as a checklist with steps and boxes to check. However, as we saw in the quote from Wiersbe, this approach only makes us self-righteous, a spiritual condition Jesus repeatedly condemned in the Pharisees.
All the upright moral behavior in the world will not become righteousness until one repents of their sin and places their trust in Jesus alone for eternal life. This is the reason we must properly understand the condition of our heart and sinful nature.
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law,
you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:20
When Jesus tells those in the crowd their righteousness should surpass the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, they were most likely taken aback. How could they, as ordinary folks, be more righteous than these teachers of the law? As we see in the Beatitudes, it is a matter of the heart. Only Christ can change the heart; therefore, our righteousness is found in Him.
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,
just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’
– Romans 1:17
Only Living Water Can Satisfy Us
Throughout the Bible, we see where God satisfies people and meets their physical needs; and, we see where He quenches their thirst spiritually. Many times Jesus offers water to anyone who is thirsty.
“But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
– John 4:14
It is only through Jesus that our hunger and thirst can be satisfied. Nothing on earth will ever satisfy the longing we have to be in a relationship with God. Jesus alone fills us.
Righteousness Must Be Sought After Throughout Our Lives
Once you become a Christian, you do not merely put on a final cloak of righteousness. Instead, Christians spend their lives pursuing righteousness and growing their faith in Jesus. No one is perfect, and everyone sins. Plus, as we have seen, it is easy to start believing you are righteous simply because you are doing the right things – going to church, reading your Bible, etc.
There will be times, however, when you are doing all the right things, but your heart is not in the right place. Therefore, we always strive to grow closer and closer to Jesus, so he can examine our hearts. The Holy Spirit convicts us when our heart has gone astray and points us back to His path of righteousness.
As you hunger and thirst for righteousness, may you be encouraged by the lyrics of this hymn by L. Casebolt:
“I've got a river of life flowing out of me!
Makes the lame to walk, and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free!
I've got a river of life flowing out of me!
Spring up, O well, within my soul!
Spring up, O well, and make me whole!
Spring up, O well, and give to me
That life abundantly.”
Wiersbe, Warren. Be Loyal: Following the King of Kings. David C. Cook, 2008.
Be sure to join us all through the summer for our current series Summer on the Mount: A Beginner's Guide to Experiencing Heaven on Earth. Part one specifically covered the beatitudes. You can watch it here: