Here is the cartoon that accompanies this post.
First-century and 21st-century connotations
What does it really mean to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? We can quickly grasp the idea that it should be as important to us as our daily bread and water. But living in a land of plenty in which clean water is readily available and healthy food is plentiful, we fail to grasp on an emotional level the significance of these words. In the first century, to hunger and thirst could mean going without food for several days or trying to survive from one oasis to another. Circumstances could easily suspend a person between life and death.
Two levels of desiring righteousness
This earnest desire for righteousness operates on two levels, as expressed in the confession of the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to me! I ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among the people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
The first level is personal. We join Isaiah in our awareness that are words or defiled us. Again and again, we fail to “let no unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, then the benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). In realizing this, we also become aware that our speech derives from our thoughts, many of which are also corrupt. Then, thoughts and words lead to actions—can we expect them to be any better? Such a self-assessment leads us to yearn for the righteousness God can give us.
The second level is societal. Our community is just as corrupt as we are, if not more so. Righteousness who in society would look like what we find described in Isaiah 58:6-8, 9-10:
…To loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke….
To share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood….
Do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk…
Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed….
Do we long for society that does these things, not just occasionally but as a regular policy? Do we hunger for it? We desire it as a person crawling across a desert longs for a drink of water?
Deeper than this longing
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
Oh God, you are worried God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
Not only does Jesus pronounce a blessing on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, but he also promises, “they will be filled.” Those who search for righteousness, who seek it and long for it with a soul-thirst, will certainly find satisfaction. But do we seek it with that deep intensity? Or are we pursuing other things that are trivial in comparison?
Permit your physical hunger and thirst to serve as a reminder of the needs that you have on a deeper level. Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Work for the spiritual food that does not spoil but endures to eternal life (John 6:27). God will keep his promise.
Want to go deeper?
Ronald J. Sider – Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity (first printed in 1977 by Inter-varsity; 6th edition: Thomas Nelson, 2015).
Sider graphically describes how our affluence blinds us to our spiritual poverty and to the needs of those around us. He points us Rich Christians to a lifestyle of simplicity, which will free up our resources, enabling us to help those in need.
Miss Bremer – “Thirst for Living Waters” (poem)