Jesus began the sermon on the mount with these words: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:3-4). Jesus next pronounces a blessing upon those who are humble. Blessed are the meek, For they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
Jesus teaches that we can know that we are blessed by God if we are “poor in spirit,” and if we “mourn,” and if we are “meek.” Meekness is a character trait or a spiritual virtue that flows naturally (or, should we say, supernaturally) from the first two beatitudes. Those who recognize their spiritual poverty and who genuinely mourn over it will be humble not proud. The humble person is not self-centered, he or she is Christ-centered and God-centered. The meek person will be gentle, humble, and unassuming because the recognize their spiritual poverty and this recognition guides their behavior. We could say it like this: The meek are blessed when their spiritual poverty and grief over sin causes the to be gentle and HUMBLE, unassuming, and willing to serve others before themselves. You’ve probably heard people quote this proverb, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
Jesus’ fourth blessing promises a deep-down, soulful satisfaction to a certain kind of person.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
When Jesus blesses “…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” He is referring to the spiritual fruit that will grow in the soil of the first three beatitudes. If we know our sin and therefore, our spiritual poverty; if we mourn over it and live meekly because of it, we will hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, we will seek it, year for it, and long for it; we will ask God to help us attain righteousness. The language of spiritual hunger and thirst is found throughout the Bible. The psalmist says for example:
They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then the cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. (Psalm 107:5-6)
Again, we find in Psalm 42:
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
Isaiah promises satisfaction that we will come freely from God to those who are spiritually hungry and thirsty.
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)
Finally, Jesus also promised satisfaction for people’s hunger and thirst.
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
We could paraphrase like this: To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to LONG for God’s rule and reign in my life to sustain me physically in the same way that I long for food and water to sustain my physically.
When we think of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, theologians tell us that there are four ways to view righteousness.
- Alien righteousness. To speak of a alien righteousness, is to speak of a righteousness that does not come from ourselves. It comes to us from outside of us. This refers to the righteousness of Christ that God gives us when we trust in Him for salvation. The Bible calls this justification.
- Personal righteousness. Personal righteousness refers to righteousness that is evident in our thoughts, words, and actions. The hunger for personal righteousness motivates us to be transformed so that we uproot our sin and replace it with righteous thoughts, words, and actions. The Bible calls this process sanctification.
- Social righteousness. This hunger for social justice moves us to engage in social action, to bring the gospel of Jesus to all areas of life, and to do good works in the world in the name of Jesus.
- Future righteousness. This is a hunger and thirst for the coming of the day when the Lord will set the world right. Jesus will bring justice for every wrong that has ever been done. It’s a longing for the day that the prophet Habakkuk described, when, "they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:13-14)
The Bible says that when Jesus returns, our great enemy, the devil or Satan, will be cast down and His righteousness will cover the earth and there will be no more sin. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” So, how blessed are you? You can gauge how blessed you are by examining your attitude. Do you believe Jesus’ teaching? Or, have you believed one of the prevailing lies of our times: express yourself; believe in yourself; realize the powers innate in yourself; be self-confident, self-reliant, and self-assured?
Jesus told a parable that describes these first four beatitudes. It’s found in Luke 18:10-14. “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
Why did Jesus tell this story? What’s the point? Luke tells us that He told it because there were… ...some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” (v 9). The main point is the same as that of the first four beatitudes: No one can enter the kingdom of heaven until they recognize their absolute inability to be “good enough” and the need to depend upon His grace completely.
Hughes, R. Kent, and Douglas Sean ODonnell. Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth. Crossway Books, 2013.