Summary: Part 4 of Sermon on Mount Series, who much do you want righteousness?
You Gotta Want it
Rev. D.V. Guptill, BCC Oct. 6 1996
Sermon on the Mount #5
Have you discovered that words can’t be taken in isolation. They have to be looked at in their environment. I performed a wedding about ten years ago and it was a miserable day in February, worst storm of the year. Five months later I’m talking to the brides brother on a beautiful day in June and said "what a great day this is not at all like Donna’s wedding day" and my wife kicked me. Totally innocent words, in isolation. Not so innocent because we were at the wedding of Donna’s first husband. There are topics which can be talked about say at medical school that wouldn’t be really appropriate at the dinner table. An advertisement arrives in the mail for a cemetery, and there’s just been a death in the family. Words can’t be taken in isolation but they exist against a background of experience and present circumstances. So when Christ said in Matthew 5:6 (NIV) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. He wasn’t originally speaking to well fed Canadians. The people of Palestine not only lived in an occupied land where the very best of everything went to the occupier not the occupies. And the people he spoke to weren’t the upper crust, or the middle class, they were the labourers, the fisherman, the carpenters and the farmers. He was talking to people who knew what it was to go to bed hungry, not just a craving for food but a gnawing hunger. The hunger that Christ spoke about wasn’t just a Big Mac attack in the original language it meant hungry to the point of starving and thirsty to the point of death. Christ is trying to convey the thought that the quest for righteousness is not some idle task that you do when there’s nothing on TV and you have nothing better to do with your time.
The story is told of the young man who came to Socrates and told him that he wanted knowledge. "Follow me" the philosopher told the student and led him to the edge of the ocean and into the water, without warning Socrates grabbed the young man and plunged him beneath the water and held him there until the struggling stopped. He dragged the boy to the shore, left him gasping on the sand and returned to the market place. When the boy recovered he sought out the teacher again and asked him why he tried to drown him. Socrates replied, "When you were under the water what did you want more then anything?" The reply of course was "air". And Socrates responded by saying, "When you crave knowledge like you craved air, then you won’t need me or anyone else to guide you."
We have to come to the same place with righteousness. You see too many of us view salvation as a trip to Timmy’s for a coffee and donut, just a snack, something to take the edge off the hungers. We never see what Christ is actually offering and that is a great banquet table laid before us. Most of us desire righteousness but in a listless way, not sharp & burning. We need to ask ourselves what we’re willing to sacrifice for righteousness, is it dessert or is a life saving meal of a starving man. In fact a good many of us suffer from what Robert Louis Stephenson described as the "Malady of not wanting"
If righteousness topped the list of desire of each person in this church, what a difference it would make not just to Bedford Community Church but to our entire city. Let’s be truthful, if we asked you what you’d want if you could have anything at all, what would it be? A new car, a bigger home, a better job? What would it be? Maybe that’s the problem. How many of us would have honestly said "If I could have anything in the world I would ask for righteousness"?
OK, at this point if I’ve done my job properly you should have a handle on how much you should want it, the next part of the job is to define, "IT" What is it that we are supposed to desire? "Well righteousness of course Denn haven’t you been paying attention at all" Ok next question is whose righteousness? "Well mine of course" you say. Oh right, all that is good and moral and holy and righteous in your life, not.
You see traditionally unhappiness happens to those who goodness never satisfies them. And what a dilemma that puts us in. For each of us to engage in a never ending quest for personal righteousness is to embark down a road of bitter disappointments. A few years back a movie was released about the life of Astronaut John Glenn, it was called "The Right Stuff" maybe you remember it? Well the truth of the matter is this, John Glenn may have had the right stuff but we have the wrong stuff, we don’t have what it takes. Kind of goes back to that first beatitude which talked about being poor in spirit, or recognizing that we don’t got it.