Theme: Hungering after and Practicing Righteousness
This week’s lessons on the Beatitudes teach us that true happiness comes by living in a way that is contrary to the world and even to our natural way of thinking.
Scripture: Matthew 5
The fourth beatitude encourages a hunger and thirst after righteousness. It stands at the center of them all. Righteousness is what we most lack, and, therefore, our greatest problem is how we as sinful men and woman become right before God? We can deal with other problems. We can find partial solutions. But if we are not right before God we have missed the only thing that matters ultimately. Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? You can have possessions, friends, a good reputation, and worldwide fame. But if you are not right before God, you have sold your soul for a mess of earthly pottage.
If I could put what Jesus recommends here in the form of an outline, I would say that it has three parts. First, we must desire righteousness. The world does not desire righteousness; it desires sin. Second, the righteousness we desire must be God’s righteousness. It is not the righteousness of which we are capable. Third, we must desire God’s righteousness with intensity. This is the meaning of “hunger and thirst.” How many of us really hunger or thirst even for food or drink? We miss lunch once in awhile and get hungry. On a hot day we get thirsty. But we do not really know much about what these words mean. Jesus was speaking to people who lived in an age and place where they did not always have enough food or drink. They knew what hunger and thirst were. So when He said, “I want you to hunger and thirst for righteousness,” He meant, “I want you to hunger after righteousness like a person who is starving, and thirst after righteousness like someone who knows he is going to die, unless he gets a drink.”
In the next beatitudes, we see attributes that characterize the Christian life. Notice the progression so far. First, there was humility before God. Second, sorrow for sin. Third, meekness that comes from contact with God. Fourth, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, which leads to justification. Finally, now that we have found justification, there come the characteristics of God expressed in the lives of His children: mercy, because God is merciful; purity, because God is the holy one; and a desire and ability to make peace, because God is the one who makes peace with us through the work of Christ.
We talk about mercy, but how often are we merciful? We may be kind to people who do not need mercy, but mercy involves kindness to those who do not deserve it and who, in fact, deserve the opposite. We are not often merciful to such people. Purity? Perhaps the greatest failure in our lives is that, although we know that sin is an offense to God, we still do not desire purity very much. We desire impurity.
So far as peace is concerned, we are better at making war. It is hard for us to make peace.
However God has made peace with us. And simply because God has made peace with us, we must be peacemakers.
What three parts further explain what it is to hunger and thirst after righteousness?
What three characteristics of God follow after the need to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Review the progression of the Beatitudes up to this point.
Application: In what ways do you need to increase in demonstrating the virtues of mercy, purity, and peace?