My world is vastly different from that of Jesus. I live with an abundance and freedom of choice that was not available to the early followers of Jesus, so fully appreciating the depth and breadth of this Beatitude can be difficult for me.
When Jesus spoke about hunger and thirst, he was addressing the most basic of human needs, without which life hangs by a thread. Jesus understood His audience that day. The people who came to listen to Him knew what it was to be hungry and thirsty. They were not assured of the basics of life, or even life itself; something that can be difficult for a middle-class, 21st-century westerner like me to comprehend.
Personally, I think that the level of choice we enjoy has the potential to overwhelm us. I remember trying to order a sandwich in New York and having the varieties of bread, cheese, meat and salad thrown at me until I blurted out, “Can I have a simple chicken salad sandwich please!”
We live under the illusion that given so many good options and opportunities, we can arrange the perfect life. But when we go down this track, we get tangled in the inevitabilities of real life and end up looking back with a collection of “if only’s”. This type of thinking can quickly lead us away from freedom towards despair.
Endless choices do not inevitably lead to a life of fulfilment. It’s about realising that I am who I am regardless of my accomplishments or the stuff I accumulate. In fact, being adept at consuming may rob us of the possibility of expressing authentic gratitude. If I am in control, making all the selections and satisfying my whims, how can I humbly consider myself to be a receiver or fortunate to have anything at all? Without a sense of gratitude, it is easy to imagine how unbridled freedom of choice could destroy relationships.
To be a friend, to be married, to join a church; all of these signify a decision to decrease in choice and autonomy. If we throw ourselves with abandon into the freedom-of-choice mindset, we will never discover who God designed us to be and what He is calling us to do. In dealing with the thousands of little choices that previous generations never had to contend with, we come under pressure to create an identity rather than to discover our God-given one.
When Jesus spoke of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, there was an inference that righteousness is about a life lived in relationship and partnership with God. It is a life in which God is in the midst of decision- making and direction. It is a life where communication through prayer is the norm rather than the exception. When Jesus speaks of righteousness, it turns from something we are supposed to do, into something that God gives us. The apostle Paul discovered that righteousness is a wrong relationship with God that has been set right, not by us, but by Him.
Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is, first and foremost, a relationship with Him and a lifelong quest to know Him better. It means that we direct our hunger and thirst towards a deeper relationship with Jesus rather than towards being successful in the world’s eyes. Jesus did not say, blessed are those who are righteous, but blessed are those who hunger andthirst for righteousness. If we think we have arrived or possess it, we can become self-righteous.
Most of us crave intimacy, a deep relationship with another human being. But the deepest and most meaningful relationship possible is with the One who had us in mind from before the beginning of time. There is a longing deep within that finds fulfilment in the hungering, in the yearning. That constant hankering we feel inside is Holy Spirit, calling us into a deeper relationship, and in the words of Saint Augustine, keeping us “restless until we find rest in Him”.
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness finds its fulfilment when we pursue a relational connection with God.
What do you hunger and thirst for? What does it look like for you to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Adapted from Andee Sellman’s book “Reflections on the Beatitudes”. You can purchase any of the titles from the Land of Seven Rivers Foundational Series in either e-book or paperback format by following the link https://www.landofsevenrivers.org/store.html
Andee Sellman is the founder of Land Of Seven Rivers.
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