Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
-Matthew 5:7 (CEB, NLT)
Righteousness and justice are what the world needs today. Agreed? Righteousness and justice are the need we see in the world today.
And we hunger and thirst to see things made right and to be bringers of justice. This is what drives some of us and becomes our mission. But this is not the mission nor the message of Jesus.
Didn’t Jesus come to save the world, to fix it?
And isn’t Jesus the answer for all the injustices?
Isn’t the heart cry of the Christ follower for things to be made right?
Jesus’ first audience for this word, were people who had been slaves as a people.
Jesus’ first audience for this word, were people who were living under a brutal occupation by a violent, unjust government.
Jesus’ first audience were very likely people who wanted to see justice and things made right in the world.
The injustice and unrighteousness in the world was real then and it is real now. God sees it. But Jesus’ word here is a personal word to each person, who would consider following him.
We misunderstand Jesus, if we hear him say that he gets it, that we have injustice and unrighteousness in our society and he is going to fix it.
We misunderstand Jesus if we hear him sending us as messengers of justice and community organizers of righteousness.
We misunderstand Jesus if we are driven in our lives for justice and righteousness in our society.
Jesus did not come to bring social justice.
Jesus did not come to bring justice and make things right in our societies then and now.
He came to reconcile us to God and to reveal God to us and to bring God’s kingdom of which God is the king of and we become subjects to.
That is why he came and that is his message. His message is to repent of all of your sins and to make him Lord and give up your life for him. His message is to know God’s love and then begin loving others.
Those who are his followers are naturally going to crave righteousness and hunger and thirst after justice.
But it is not because we see Jesus message and mission as bringing social justice to the world.
We crave righteousness and thirst and hunger for justice, because we are pursuing God to the extreme.
This word about those who crave righteousness and hunger and thirst for justice is the fourth blessed state for the follower who has begun to experience the first three beatitudes. These have a synergy that is started by encountering God in his son. These involve the experience of personal poverty, bankruptcy and emptiness that turns towards Jesus for a changed life:
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
Jesus is not saying, “I get it, now here’s the plan to change society”.
He instead says that it is all about laying down your whole life to God.
“God is king and God loves you”, is Jesus message.
When I come through that door, I am going to have to change how I live. And that is what Jesus is teaching us about. Jesus’ followers are hopeless, they grieve and they are made humble through that experience or process, which goes on through their whole lives. And these humbled ones crave righteousness in their lives.
We have it backwards, if we think that now that we understand God, through Christ, we are going to bring justice to the world. That is proud, self-righteousness.
This desire for justice, that Jesus is talking about, comes in the context of relationship with God that is intensely personal. It is not about social or societal justice.
Jesus words are about intimacy with God. The bedrock of his whole message is the Father’s love for each one of us. None of the rest of it works, if we do not experience the affection of Father.
When you have a foretaste, you get a taste for something. And that is how it is with Christ. And his righteousness, that we crave, comes through humility: it is not at all proud or self-righteous.
Christ’s followers never look down on others in a self-righteous fashion, because we are continually embracing the humility that Jesus weaves into our lives as we follow him. That is what bearing your cross is about.
When we set aside or set down our personal crosses and try to live, try to function and talk to others, there is a good chance that we will come across and pretty much be self-righteous people who are bad representatives of our Lord. We’ll be giving lip service to Jesus being Lord, but acting like we are bosses.
The righteousness that Jesus followers desire comes from hearts that are completely without hope in themselves and continually grieve their own hopelessness. The craving for justice is through personal encounter with Christ, Jesus as Lord, and we know that true justice is only through him.
The hunger, the thirst and the craving is not to see righteousness and justice come about on earth through earthly means. But it is to see heaven on earth. This is like that hunger or craving that David was talking about in Psalm 42:
Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When will I come and see God’s face?
The hunger for righteousness and justice is the also like the hunger Isaiah wrote of in chapter 55:
All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
Why spend money for what isn’t food,
and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
enjoy the richest of feasts.
God is not trying to get us involved in social justice. God wants to bring heaven to earth, though the lives of the saints. This is the birthright of followers of Christ.
Are we asking God to bring the kingdom or are we trying to bring our version of it?
The righteousness that Jesus is speaking of, that his followers will crave, is the desire to trust in God more and to be obedient to him more fully. This is the goal of the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus is saying.
What Jesus is saying is that his disciples will hunger and thirst, even crave to live before God, in lives that are unmarred by sinfulness. The child of God lives a life fully vindicated in Father’s love.
Have you ever heard and wondered about the Negro Spirituals, written by slaves that expressed sorrow and joy?
The believer lives in a paradox of an unjust world, under a loving God who is king. We can and do cry out, “how long?”, and remain living in His love.
He makes a way through and we get confused sometimes because we are so eagerly looking for a way out.
God’s answer to the thirst, hunger and craving for things to be made right is intensely personal.
God’s answer is not just a deeper and wider heart; but also for real deliverance and real change in the physical world.
The kingdom of God coming affects our insides and our world around us. It is not just one or the other.
The Psalms are filled with songs that say, “I cried to the Lord in my distress, and he delivered me.”
The Psalms tell stories of rags to riches and restored fortunes.
But there is also that in-between time, when deliverance, healing, justice and righteousness are “not yet”.
One way to look at the whole kingdom of God is that is is “already and not yet”. Everybody that is not healed yet, is not whole yet, is not delivered yet or has not come into their destiny yet; is in the “not yet” of the kingdom. Being a child of God and a citizen of the kingdom means that we always have the hope that there no longer be a “not yet”, at some point. Nevertheless, we live and breathe in the, “already and the not yet”, season in many arenas.
But God is always good and we can always trust God. Psalm 107 tells this story of people who were hungry and thirsty for God’s justice and righteousness. Here are the first nine verses:
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
because his faithful love lasts forever!”
That’s what those who are redeemed by the Lord say,
the ones God redeemed from the power of their enemies,
the ones God gathered from various countries,
from east and west, north and south.
Some of the redeemed had wandered into the desert, into the wasteland.
They couldn’t find their way to a city or town.
They were hungry and thirsty;
their lives were slipping away.
So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
and God delivered them from their desperate circumstances.
God led them straight to human habitation.
Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all people,
because God satisfied the one who was parched with thirst,
and he filled up the hungry with good things!
The rest of Psalm 107 tells amazing stories of people and God. This hunger and thirst were real. God’s deliverance was real.
What people need is God’s deliverance.
Today, we need the great God of man and woman, not the great man or woman of God. We need and people need God’s intervention. We are dead and need to be made alive.
There is no program and method that we have that will bring about what people need. Our brokenness is beyond repair and hopeless. God’s intervention is our only hope.
And God has already come in Christ to a dying world. And God is here in this world, ready and willing and filled with desire to save us. Turning again to God for answers is the only way and the only hope.
And the good news is that some people are already doing this and they are abounding with fruitfulness, because they have ‘put all their eggs in the one basket’. The invitation to join with the ones already sold out for Jesus stands to all. He promises fruitfulness to us, as we put all our our hope and trust in him.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,
because they will be fed until they are full.”
Common English Bible (2011)
Matthew: Our Loving King, B. Simmons (2014), p. 24
Matthew, R.T. France (1985), p. 110
Matthew, D.A. Hagner, (1993), p. 93
Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, D.M. Lloyd-Jones (1959), p. 73