PRAYING THE BEATITUDES, PART 5
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
English writer Samuel Johnson once observed, “A man seldom thinks with more earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner.” We might add to that breakfast and lunch! When Jesus describes spiritual earnestness in the allegorical terms of hunger and thirst, He successfully captures our attention. We know what it is to hunger and thirst in the physical sense. We have spent years developing the feeding of that life-sustaining habit. In His classic understated style, Jesus uses this fourth axiom to portray another aspect of kingdom living. He emphasizes here righteousness. Righteousness is God’s character trait that demands He maintain absolute integrity to goodness and justice. It is moral perfection. God is eternally consistent in maintaining His own righteousness. Not only that, but He has big plans for us too. Jesus Himself came to earth to catalyze the plan in His atonement-by-sacrifice endeavor. The result? We earthly offspring of God may be considered as having the same righteousness as His one and only heavenly Son, Jesus, if we accept the offer. But we must seize the opportunity. No dilly-dallying passivity will suffice. While we cannot earn this estate, we must demonstrate our desire for it.
Not surprisingly, prayer comes into the process again. Jesus advises us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Maybe He means breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I have a hunch it’s more than that. I think He’s pointing us to this hunger and thirst for righteousness. He’s reminding us that we not only find our physical needs supplied by our Maker, but more importantly, our spiritual needs. Not only that, but our spiritual sensitivity can be honed by the very act of petitioning God.
Saint Augustine observed the connection between spiritual earnestness and prayer, advising, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Scripture repeatedly points to spiritual earnestness, a hunger and thirst for relationship with God, as the crucial mindset of a true follower of Christ.
The author of Hebrews observes that God ‘rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb.11:6). Like the previous three axioms, number four has its reward too: “They will be filled”. The hungry will be satisfied. The thirsty will find their dryness quenched. We are enabled to “participate in the divine nature and escape corruption” (II Pet.1:4). As if that were not enough, the promise is that we will be filled with the Spirit of Christ Himself. Jesus lives in us, through us, with us and for us.
We need to take a deep breath and ponder this. It feels like we’ve just feasted on an amazing banquet of truths. Our full, thankful, restful spirits absorb the nutrients that will sustain our souls. Jesus’ beatitudes are everything and more. We are blessed.