“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled”Matthew 5:6
The beatitudes are the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount in which the theme is God’s righteousness compared with the standard of righteousness set by Israel’s religious leaders (v 20). The purpose of this comparison is to show the failure and futility of any standard set by men and the necessity of one receiving God’s righteousness. In the third beatitude, quoted above, Jesus says that the person who hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness is blessed.
Blessed is speaking of position. People who hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness are in the best possible position. The latter part of the verse explains why: those who seek God’s righteousness will be satisfied. That they do hunger demonstrates that they have already received the gift of God’s righteousness. That is why they are blessed.
The words used by Jesus indicate a craving that rules one’s desires and life. A key indication that a creature is alive is that it craves food and water. If it doesn’t, it is dying or already dead. Anyone who does not crave God’s righteousness is spiritually dead. That a person does crave God’s righteousness is an indication of spiritual life. Such a person will not only crave God’s righteousness but also communion with God through Jesus Christ in prayer, Bible reading and study, and fellowship with other faithful Christians.
How one receives God’s righteousness is clearly revealed in Genesis 15:6: “[Abram] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” God’s righteousness is not something we achieve; it is credited to us as a gift upon believing God’s word. When a gift is offered by anyone we demonstrate faith in the giver by receiving the gift. Paul writes, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). Those who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness give evidence of spiritual life and that they have already received the gift of God’s righteousness. They now long to live in the experience of it and Jesus affirms that they will be satisfied. The full experience of this satisfaction awaits us in the resurrection when Christ reigns and rules in righteousness.