Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
Have you ever marvelled that food is the perfect match for hunger? I mean hunger is deadly but it is solved perfectly, hand in glove, by food. Similarly, thirst is fatal but it is met exquisitely by water.
Righteousness may feel a bit less obvious a concept than food or water, so why does Jesus use the hunger and thirst analogy? Perhaps because like food and water our lives depend on it, and perhaps like food and water the perfect solution exists to fill our need. But let’s not misunderstand. Righteousness is not about personal piety or hermit-like holiness. Not that those things cannot be good things. This biblical old testament righteousness is best understood as right relationships. A choice to live day in and day out in a certain flow with God, oneself, neighbours and creation. Just like Jesus did.
Let’s go back a stage and remember our introduction to the Sermon on the Mount:
1. It’s all a portrait of Jesus
2. It is designed for communities to actually live by
3. It gives us real eyes to realise where real lies
Let’s take a reality check here for a moment and just remember what happens when we step out of pursuing that flow of right relationships so central to the life of God. 70 years of abuses of children by priests and church employees have just been exposed and condemned in the IICSA report. As I understand it, the report concluded that the church allowed a culture where those ‘in the club’ were protected and the child victims were expendable. My father was a witness to terrible abuses when he was a boy at a cathedral school in Chichester in the 50’s. Having not talked about it for much of his life, now in his 70’s it is now something he talks about every time I see him. He has shut his life to God because of what he saw clergymen do to children. This is what happens when there is no hungering and thirsting for right relationship.
When we step out of the flow of pursuing right relationships, we allow fear of other rather than love of neighbours to become the loudest voice in our ears. Years of systematic racism, preference by the police, the courts, education and employers for white over black or brown skin means there is no righteousness, no right relationship between races.
When we step out of the flow of pursuing right relationships, we exploit rather than care for the world. We live on the back of this globe like a virus taking all we can without a care for the health of even survival of the host.
This is a bit depressing. But as hunger has food and thirst has water so right relationships are there to fill the need that God placed in us that Jesus models and that is at the heart of the trinity to live in a flow of life with God, self, creation and neighbour.
When Jesus was on the cross, he said ‘I thirst’ and he was given bitter wine on a sponge. But maybe his thirst was for right relationships and that took him to the cross. And it was by the cross, the wondrous cross, that relationship was restored, and we can have peace.
Will things ever change? Yes. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled, so they are the lucky ones because they know it is real life to go after these things, just like Jesus did. One day the lion will lie down with the lamb as all of creation is restored to right relationship. One day every tribe language nation and people will be gathered together in the presence of God where the beauty of variety will add to the eternal worship of the eternal God.
And if all of this seems like pie in the sky or like hard work then remember all we do is in response to God who first loved us. To Jesus who hungered and thirsted for a relationship with us that moved us from alienation to adoption. We cannot earn it any more than you can earn being part of a family, but we can live out of it.
So here is my paraphrase with apologies to Jesus and to Matthew:
How cool for those who hunger and thirst for right relationships with God, others, creation and themselves. Not only do they understand where real life lies, but they will see their dreams come true.
Because they are God’s dreams too.