Summary: A hunger for righteousness is a heart for God.
Matt 5.6 ’Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’
ILL: Have you ever spent time fasting? I think some of the youth are thinking about doing the 40 hour famine in a few weeks. If you’ve done it before, how much are you actually thinking about the message during those last few hours? Not much, I’ll bet. I bet you’re sitting there thinking about the gnawing sensation in your stomach and how good lunch is going to taste in a couple of hours!
Once when I was helping with a youth group in Alice Springs we went hiking up a mountain but we hadn’t brought enough water. I tell you, the hike back down was a nightmare. The water was gone in no time. We came across what looked like a reasonably clean pool of water and filled a flask up. I didn’t really trust the water - you don’t go drinking water from still pools in the desert - but we used it as a carrot for all those exhausted kids on the way down. By the time we got down all we could think about was water - I have never been so thirsty in all my life. ASome people were getting so desperate they were fantasizing about drinking the coolant out of the car engine!
I guess most of us know what it’s like to be very hungry or thirsty, but what about spiritual hunger? Many people have some sort of desire for the spiritual, but in this age of designer spirituality that can mean almost anything. What Jesus was talking about here was a hunger for a spirituality that connects with God.A hunger for his righteousness.
What do you think of when you think of righteousness? Stuffy doctrines? Saintly people who seem to float above the cares of the world?
Of course, Jesus wasn’t talking about either. It’s true that righteousness is a very rich and loaded word. But it really just boils down to a few simple ideas.
A. RIGHT WITH GOD
First of all, a hunger for righteousness comes from a desire to be in a right relationship with God.
For the Old Testament Jew pursuing this meant living obeying the law. But godly people throughout the ages have realised that despite our best efforts, we simply can’t live up the law. As the Bible says, "No one is righteous, not even one person!" (Rom 3.10).
But that’s a positive thing, because when we’re at that place all we can do is cry out to God for mercy and grace. Even the Old Testament prophets and poets realised that. So in Psalm 51 the psalmist says to God:
"Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Ps 51.9-11).
When we get to that point, we’re expressing a hunger for righteousness.
B. OBEDIENCE TO GOD
Not only is righteousness about relationship with God, it’s also about wanting to please God.
Lots of people think that pleasing God is about obeying rules, going to church and all those kind of things. Of course, all of that is really important, but it’s not the essence of righteousness. In fact, it can quickly turn into legalism. We become like the pharisees who did everything right on the outside: they come to worship and they did their acts of service and they kept the law, but thought they came to worship they didn’t worship. They did acts of service, but they didn’t have a servant-heart. They were bitter and screwed up.
A hunger for righteousness is more like the psalmist’s cry, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Ps 42.1-2).
If you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness it means you want to live a life in step with the Spirit. This is the kind of yearning you can’t fake. Behaviour follows being and hunger for righteousness begins with a heart for God. It flows from love. Then doing righteous things come naturally. We go to worship out of a desire to worship God. We seek out the fellowship of other believers out of a desire to be with God’s people. We serve others out of a deep sense of love and joy for what God has done for us through Jesus. We avoid sin because we love righteousness.
ILL: I notice this with my kids. Sometimes we’ll ask them to do something - tidy their room or help with the dishes - and we wind up sorry we asked! It’s just a grind to get them to do their chores. But then at other times, they’ll spontaneously come and help. It’s something that’s come from the heart. They’ll just do it and then want to show it off to us! Not that they need to win our approval, but they really want our praise. And don’t we love to give it!