A Promise for "Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness"
by Charles R. Swindoll
The true servant of God possesses an insatiable appetite for what is right, a passionate drive for justice. Spiritually speaking, the servant is engaged in a pursuit of God . . . a hot, restless, eager longing to walk with Him, to please Him. That's who Jesus referred to when He said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5:6).
Eleventh-century Bernard of Clairvaux expressed it in this way in his hymn, "Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts":
We taste Thee, O Thou living bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.¹
Bernard's pen dripped with that insatiable appetite for God.
But there is a practical side of this fourth beatitude as well. It includes not just looking upward, pursuing a vertical holiness, but also looking around and being grieved over the corruption, the inequities, the gross lack of integrity, the moral compromises that abound. The servant "hungers and thirsts" for right on earth. Unwilling simply to sigh and shrug off the lack of justice and purity as inevitable, servants press on for righteousness. Some would call them idealists or dreamers.
Another teacher, the great seventeenth-century preacher and Bible expositor, Matthew Henry, offers an eloquent assessment of this concept. He points out that true righteousness grows in humility, through patient acceptance of whatever life may throw at us. Whether life brings us poverty or wealth, sickness or health, or just normal day-to-day existence, the deeper rewards of the Christian life come through patient and obedient dependence upon God. Henry writes:
Those who contentedly bear oppression, and quietly refer themselves to God to plead their cause, shall in due time be satisfied, abundantly satisfied, in the wisdom and kindness, which shall be manifested in the appearances for them.²
The idea of hungering and thirsting for righteousness may sound a bit strained to our modern ears, but Matthew Henry tells us that those who seek God's blessings will naturally desire to experience genuine righteousness. And righteousness, he says, grows out of a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. The blessings of heaven are purchased for us, not by our own holiness or piety but by the righteousness of Christ.
And what will happen when this passionate appetite is a part of one's life? What does Jesus promise? "They shall be satisfied" (5:6). What a picture of contentment! Contented in soul and satisfied within, the servant with an appetite for righteousness will be filled. It's comforting to hear that promise.
Normally, one would think such an insatiable pursuit would make one so intense there would be only fretfulness and agitation. But, no, Jesus promises to bring a satisfaction to such hungry and thirsty souls . . . a "rest" of spirit that conveys quiet contentment.
Righteousness grows out of a deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ. —Chuck Swindoll Tweet This
- Bernard of Clairvaux, "Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts," trans. Ray Palmer, in Hymns for the Family of God (Nashville: Paragon, 1976), hymn 451.
- Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible: Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), 1220.
Excerpted from Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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