The Good Life as Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Passage: Matthew 5:1-2 & 5:6

5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Soul Search Essay

In a prior essay, I shared the basis for the following paragraph:
“[You are fortunate if you] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Hungry and thirsty for righteousness means a continuing personal and consistently intentional submission to the radical remodeling of your life, relationships, opinions, character, conduct, personality, behavior, in short every single thing about you; nothing withheld.”

Diakiosyne is the Greek word translated in the NET as “righteousness.”  The word has a fairly varied usage in general Koine Greek, but for us as believers, we need to consider its use by a Hebrew culture.  Specifically, how does the Old Testament conceive of righteousness and express what it is?

In the OT, the concept of righteousness is a characteristic of a human that is rightly related to YHWH, rather than righteousness being a checklist of behaviors a human must do.  The relationship (such as Job’s with God) produces the righteousness, not human action.  It is the transfer of a characteristic into a human being.  Missing this point is arguably the critical error of the Pharisees, the preeminent Bible study people of Jesus day.

From their study, the Pharisees created elaborate rules and essentially checklist behaviors believing this produced righteousness.  Christ used violent language to assure the Pharisees they were wrong (“whitewashed tombs” is a verbal fist to the nose).  Christ makes it clear that practioners of mechanical Judiasm are not just wrong, but that they actively oppress others.  True righteousness, according to Christ in later passages, produces worshiping in “spirit and truth.”  Why?

The righteousness Jesus speaks of through Matthew is a characteristic of an individual who has been through the painful experiences of growth in discipleship.  This discipleship inherently involves active, intentional relating to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  This relating surfaces lies hidden within human lives, souls, and systems.  Once surfaced, the lies must be acted on.  Many Christians avoid acting on these lies in a positive way.  They ignore them.  Explain them away.  Avoid them.  Confirm the lies as truth in their own minds.

If you do not face the lies within your life, your mind, your emotions, your behavior, your family, your work, and anywhere else they exist, you are unlikely to worship in truth.  There may be moments of truth in worship, but there will not be a dominant characteristic of worship in truth and spirit in your life.  To gain this worship characteristic in your life requires hunger and thirst.

This hunger and thirst is not for vindication against those who harm you.  It is not about others at all. It is about you.  It is the hunger and thirst that is sufficient to push you through the pain of true early discipleship.  True discipleship involves expensive grace.  True early discipleship involves your pain.  Your salvation was free.  Your personal and specific discipleship is absolutely not free.

Removal of lies within your life, your work, your relationships requires something very, very expensive.  Awareness.  Awareness of sin.  Awareness of YHWH’s plans for sin.  Awareness of how love is YHWH’s answer to sin.

Going to church.  Listening to sermons.  Studying the Bible.  Having Christian friends who encourage and support you.  Being a preacher.  Being a famous and lauded evangelist or preacher even.  All of these things are insufficient. They cannot and will not make you righteous.  In fact, they can be a tremendous danger to you.  They can give you false hope, false confidence.  The lies can spread widely in your life, into your family, into all relationships, through any system you touch, even into your church.

As a Christian counselor, I have traced sins back multiple generations among “pillars of the church” families.  It is saddening to witness the tremendous damage done and the pointless pain that multiplied decade after decade.  Yet, it is wonderfully freeing to watch disciples use courageous awareness and the hunger and thirst for righteousness to defeat these intergenerational patterns.

So, many Christians hunger and thirst for righteousness without the willingness to participate in their sanctification.  They want a spiritual pill to make it better.  They want anesthetized soul surgery with minimal recovery pain.  Early discipleship involves soul surgery.  No anesthetic.  Live.  In color.  Christians are often too afraid, too angry, too sure it is another’s fault to submit to the surgeon.  The excuses and avoidance methods are legion.

Awareness of sin is required.  Required.  Required.

Awareness of Christ’s deep and effective love and grace is required.  Required.  Required.

You cannot produce righteousness.  You cannot.  It is given to you by YHWH and Christ through the Holy Spirit. You gain it twice.  Eternally at conversion.  Temporally via sanctification.  The temporal gaining is the heart of this beatitude.

You gain the righteousness of this beatitude as part of your sanctification.  This righteousness comes by scooping up shit within your soul and handing it to Christ.  You must place it in his hands and let it go.  Then, true love can replace it.

As a Christian counselor, I am amazed at the number of believers who deny shit exists in their soul, or who admit it is there, but clutch it to their face, or who stuff it behind their backs or who smear it on others, especially family members.  It is a profound source of sorrow and mourning to me watching this happen – over and over and over and over….

Some will be offended that I used the word “shit.”  “Shit” is absolutely insufficiently vulgar, insufficiently obscene and insufficiently graphic for what still exists in you personal soul, mind, spirit, body, behavior, will and emotions after conversion.  “Shit” is also much, much milder than language both in the New Testament and the Old Testament.

Unfortunately translators are afraid to translate the terms accurately.  So, finding these usages requires a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew or use of tools for these languages.  What is the result of this translators’ lack of courage?  That which should offend and shock you does not.  It is never presented to you. Awareness of the putrid, smelly, slimy shit in your soul is blocked by those you trust to translate. The effect?

We become the new Pharisees.  The learned Bible studiers who miss the points of Christ’s life and mission entirely.  Without the shock and attendant awareness, We do not stop our habits and assumptions.

Some of us create lists that everyone must follow for inclusion as a “Christian” just like the Pharisees did.  like them, we pointlessly burden others.  Others of us emasculate YHWH and Jesus into Santa Claus by using a distorted love message to everyone.  This message never asks for change, never jerks us up short, never is allowed to show us that our shit cannot alter YHWH’s and Christ’s love for us in anyway at all, ever.

Then, there are those who have divorced Christianity from the Bible.  This gives them full freedom to make YHWH and Jesus in their own human image.  They want a blank canvas, not living beings beyond their control that offer righteousness in exchange for handfuls of smelly, rotting shit.

What is the answer to all of this?

5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

“Satisfied.”  YHWH and Christ respond to those who hand their smelly, slimy, embarrassing sin to Christ, give up control and let him take it.  YHWH and Christ satisfy the inherent need that screams in your soul for the wrong thingsyou feel inside to GO AWAY.  They go away when displaced by the true love YHWH and Christ have for you.  As you accept the sin to love exchange, you truly become a disciple. You move beyond early discipleship.  This gift of true and more mature discipleship does not produce happiness though.  This beatitude makes that clear.

It produces satisfaction.  It gifts your inner soul with periods of serenity.  It brings extended moments of shalom in the form of a supernatural relationship with the living Jesus.  You gain this by being hungry and thirsty.

You cannot, however, withstand scooping all of your sin out at once.  It is too much.  So, you must stay hungry and thirsty much (if not all) of your life.  It takes the supernatural relationship with Christ, both to remain hungry and thirsty, as well as receive the satisfaction he promises to you. You.  He is sufficient for both of these things.  You are capable (with his help) of receiving these things.

Accept them.  The pain is a small price.