Most of us have never experienced true hunger or true thirst. Not at the life-threatening level. We frequently complain of hunger when it has been a while since our last meal. We are quick to say we are thirsty when we exert ourselves physically or if we’re exposed to heat for too long. Although these feelings are very real to us in these times, we’re not in danger of imminent death.
Most healthy humans can survive up to eight weeks with no food as long as they have water. Some have survived longer than eight weeks without food while others have starved to death in a shorter amount of time. The time frame for survival with no water is much shorter. The point is, to be truly hungry and thirsty is completely different than a growling stomach around lunch time. To be hungry and thirsty is a life or death matter.
The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Righteousness, here from the Greek dikaiosune, is the character or quality of being right or just. This righteousness is the gracious gift of God to those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and are thereby brought into right relationship with God. This right standing with God is what Christ is saying we must hunger and thirst for and in so doing we will be satisfied.
Jesus paints a powerful picture here if we’re careful to take the time to look at it closely. When a person is really hungry, finding food is all that matters to him. Everything else becomes secondary, and the quest for food becomes his only priority. A person on the verge of starvation is desperate. He will eat food off the floor. He will dig through the garbage can in search of anything to eat. A hungry person is not picky. He does not complain about what is offered. A hungry person is humble. The hungry person simply needs food and will do whatever it takes to get it. Likewise, a person who is truly thirsty will quit everything in search of one drop of water to moisten his parched lips. He will crawl to any source of life refreshing water. This is the picture of the one who hungers and thirsts for the righteousness that only Christ can give. He is desperate for God.
The book of Psalms provides vivid images of this idea,“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (42:1). “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6 that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed and satisfied. What does He mean by satisfied? Why would we continue to hunger and thirst after He has saved us? Doesn’t that seem antithetical to being satisfied? Matthew Henry writes, “Hunger and thirst are appetites that return frequently and call for fresh satisfactions…The quickened soul calls for constant meals of righteousness, grace to do the work of every day in its day, as duly as the living body calls for food. Those who hunger and thirst will labour for supplies; so we must not only desire spiritual blessings but take pains for them in the use of the appointed means.” The idea here is that the satisfaction we receive in Christ is so great that it causes us to want more and more of Him. It doesn’t mean that we are dissatisfied but that we are so satisfied we want even more.
This all satisfying righteousness in Christ produces white-hot worship in the believer. When a hungry person on the edge of death finds food, he cannot adequately express his gratitude for it. When a thirsty person finds cool, refreshing water, he is overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. This is the response of those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God and receive it in Christ and are satisfied by it. They pour out their hearts and lives in worship to the Source. Theirs is not a superficial worship. It is the worship of a hungry and thirsty soul that has been filled with the life-giving, sustaining, all-satisfying grace of God in Christ.