There is a spiritual
progression in the beatitudes of Jesus as they build
on one another. Each truth logically depends on the
one before it.
The "poor in spirit"
recognize their spiritual poverty and want to do
something about it. Therefore, they "mourn" over
their sinfulness and submit to the control of the
Holy Spirit. This "gentle" attitude leads to a
"hungering and thirsting for righteousness" of God
in their personal lives.
Do you have a hard time
letting go of certain attitudes or behaviors that
keep you from being all that God wants you to be in
Christ? Is there a pocket of spiritual poverty that
refuses to let go? You have mourned over it and
committed it to the Holy Spirit to help you, but it
still seems so easy to grab, but hard to let go.
Selfism––the worship and catering to self––is easy
to grab and hold on to, but extremely hard to get
Can you sincerely
describe your relationship with God saying, "I love
You with all my heart?" Let's ask ourselves how
intent we are on bringing about changes in some key
areas of our lives.
HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT
In what area of spiritual
growth do I want to bring about change? What is my
poverty of spirit in my Christian walk? Is there an
area of my Christian life where I can honestly say
to myself, "I have a problem." What is my
spiritual poverty? What is the sin I tend to hold on
to tightly? Do I have a hard time thinking God’s
"For My thoughts are not
Nor are your ways My
ways," declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are
higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher
than your ways
And My thoughts than your
thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Holy Spirit reveals
to us areas of spiritual need that we would never be
aware of otherwise. We would never think of it on
our own because depravity has affected our way of
thinking. Has the Spirit convicted you of a needy
area? Has He put His finger on some sin that needs
to be dealt with? Where is the area of spiritual
growth that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about in
Has it become so
convicting that you are mourning over it? Do
you feel the pain of death? Are you grieving
over your spiritual poverty? Does it seem to have a
strong grip over you? Do you want to be set free so
badly that you hunger for it?
God has provided the
power to bring about change for the
Spirit-controlled person. The Spirit gives us the
self-discipline required to bring these changes. Our
problem is so big that we cannot do it in our own
strength. To what extent am I claiming the spiritual
resources that God gives through His Spirit?
So the question before us
is how badly do I want to change? Has it become so
intense that it is like a man starving to death?
Is it like someone who is extremely thirsty?
PROSPEROUS HAVE A PASSION FOR PERSONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS
Jesus tells us we must
have an intense longing after righteousness. He
said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew
Jesus is not talking
about literal physical food, but a right
relationship with God.
This "hungering and
thirsting" signifies a genuine continual craving of
the soul. He is not referring to an occasional
desire to be right, but a passionate craving for
that which is right. This is a metaphor for an
intense longing desire. You want it so strongly you
feel the pangs for it. It is a matter of life and
death. Your very existence depends on that one-cup
of water, or that one piece of bread.
This intense craving is a
hungering for something necessary in life. The inner
person must be fed and it is the evidence of life.
Spiritually dead people have no appetite for
spiritual things. The apathetic are anemic in
their spiritual life. What do I for crave in life?
What am I hungry for?
The Greek grammar
expresses a "hunger and thirst" for the whole
things. I want the whole loaf of bread.
I want the whole bucket of water.
Jesus told a one-sentence
parable of the merchant who sold everything to
purchase one great extremely valuable pearl of great
wealth (Matthew 13:45-46). Jesus said, "Again, the
kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine
pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value,
he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Jesus said we must hunger
and thirst after "righteousness." "Righteousness"
means to be right with God, and in our personal
lives it means being and doing what is right. It is
a perfect conformity to God's holy law and His will.
Righteousness is an attribute of God. Jesus will
teach His disciples a little later, "But seek first
His kingdom and His righteousness . . ." (Matthew
Another way of describing
this hunger is found in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus
said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all
your mind." (Capitals in NASB indicate a quote from
the Old Testament). If we love Him we will obey Him
(John 14:15). If we have an obedience problem we
have a love problem. This beatitude helps us to love
Him with all our heart.
Jesus is addressing those
who already belong to Him. Such individuals have
been pronounced right with God based upon what
Christ did for us. This is our legal righteousness
or justification. God declared us righteous in His
presence the very moment we believed on Jesus Christ
as our personal Savior. This is not a
self–righteousness, or righteousness obtained by
works of obedience or fulfilling a religious law.
What God offers is righteousness by faith in Jesus
Christ. "Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans
10:4). The only obedience that satisfies God the
Father is the obedience of Christ. We are declared
to be in a right relationship with God based upon
the person and atoning work of Jesus Christ. "That
if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and
believe in your heart that God raised Him from the
dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man
believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the
mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation . . . for
whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be
saved" (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
righteousness is a right standing the believer has
before God because of the atoning work of Jesus
Christ on his behalf. It is our legal standing with
God. It is totally unmerited. It is an act of grace
on God's behalf toward the unrighteous person. This
is not an achieved or merited righteousness. It is
something God out of grace and love does on behalf
of the believing sinner. The believer hungers for
God’s kind of righteousness. God imputes it or
credits it to the believer’s account. God is fully
satisfied with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
"He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to
be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The legal basis of such
imputed righteousness is the death of Christ. Jesus
died as our substitute. He died on our behalf. He
paid our sin debt to the righteousness of God (2
Cor. 5:21; 8:9; Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Matt. 26:28;
Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:9). This is our
position in Christ. Cf. Ps. 32:1-2; Rom. 4:3, 5, 9b,
13, 16, 22, 24; Gal. 3:5ff.
In these words of Jesus
there is the emphasis on the impartation of
righteousness. We cannot earn our right relationship
with God through works of righteousness, however
since we have been justified by faith in the
righteousness of Jesus Christ we will produce
righteousness in our daily life. The term Jesus uses
embraces both imputed and imparted righteousness.
There must be an intense
desire to live a life of righteousness, to be
pleasing to God with my daily life. This is my
progressive sanctification. I fear for those who say
they are saved, but care nothing for their daily
walk with Christ. How tragic to be saved, secure and
apathetic. Surely that is not what Jesus has in mind
here. Jesus said God will fill those who hunger and
thirst for righteousness. A little later in Matthew
Jesus says, "Seek first His kingdom and His
righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Because we are saved
we will want to live according to His teachings. He
produces that hunger and thirsting in our new nature
born of the Holy Spirit.
God is the one who places
this hunger in the believer and then He produces
this righteousness in the believer. It is His work
of grace in the believer. It is not something a
person can achieve of himself. But the believer does
have to make himself available to God for Him to do
Just as the body hungers
for food and water these people hunger to be like
God. They have a deep passion for personal
righteousness. It is the hunger for moral good. They
want to obtain the righteousness that God demands in
their lives. We depend not upon our on power to
achieve righteousness, but upon God. It depends on
our cooperating with the Holy Spirit. We allow Him
to produce that righteous life in and through us.
It is only those who
"hunger and thirst" after God's righteousness who
will be fully satisfied. The righteousness imputed
and imparted by God must be the object of intense
hunger and thirsting.
It is important to stress
both imputation and imparted righteousness in this
beatitude. God satisfies both needs for
righteousness. He satisfies the need for a right
relationship with Him based on the imputation of
Christ’s righteousness. At the same time, we need to
produce the kind of conduct that is pleasing to Him
in our daily life.
"For what the Law could
not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh
and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the
flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be
fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the
flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are
according to the flesh set their minds on the things
of the flesh, but those who are according to the
Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-5).
The Holy Spirit imparts this righteousness in the
believer. He produces them as we yield ourselves to
Augustine hungered for
righteousness and wrote, "You hast made us for
Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they
rest in You."
The apostle Paul prayed
for the Philippian church, "that your love may
abound still more and more in real knowledge and all
discernment, so that you may approve the things that
are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless
until the day of Christ; having been filled with the
fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus
Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians
1:11). The Christian life is not static; it is a
growing thing (3:12-14). We are to grow in
Christlikeness and service.
On a scale from 1 to 10
how hungry am I for spiritual things? What is my
attitude toward personal righteousness? What do I
hunger for in life? To what extent do I hunger for
God's Word? How is my appetite for the truth
of the Bible? How is my appetite for fellowship with
other believers? What is my attitude toward worship?
What is my attitude toward deep spiritual truths?
In what ways am I growing in my love for holiness?
Do I long to be with mature Spirit-filled
Christians? Would I rather be with carnal, immature
people? How hungry am I for the works of the
flesh? Do I sincerely pray "Lord, keep me from the
temptation of my easily besetting sin?" Do I long to
have God pronounce the verdict "righteous" as His
decision over me in the judgment?
Jesus Christ is our
perfect model of hungering and thirsting for
A RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT
How does this hunger and
thirst for righteousness become fully satisfied?
Jesus said those who have
this passionate craving for righteousness will have
a full measure. They won't get just a bite; they
will get the whole thing. God will satisfy them
fully. The original word was used to fattened
animals. They will be fattened. We will be fully
satisfied. But it comes only to those who "hunger
and thirst," and to no one else.
Don't miss the emphasis
Jesus is making. This is all a gift of His grace.
Even in the Christian's life this righteousness is a
gift of God. We do not achieve it in ourselves.
Christ never disappoints anyone who hungers to do
the will of God. He will accomplish His eternal
purposes in everyone who desires to do it. The
promise in this beatitude is if you hunger and
thirst for righteousness you will be completely
Jesus used the word
"satisfied" with a root meaning the placing where
the grass grows and animals graze. It describes
cattle feeding on a beautiful, luxurious, green
meadow. The ideas are to satisfy with food, to be
fed full, and completely satisfied. But it is not a
once and for all satisfaction so as to hunger no
more. John Broadus says, "This satisfaction will be
progressive in the present life, and become perfect
as we enter upon the perfect world." "Hungering and
thirsting" are in durative present tenses, i.e., the
hungering and thirsting continues and increases in
the very act of being satisfied.
The passive "shall be
filled" denotes a gift of God to those fulfilling
the condition making them "righteous" in His
presence. God does it. It is His gift to the
Lord Jesus increase my
hunger for you. Please increase my capacity to love
you. It was to the church at Ephesus the risen
glorified Lord Jesus in heaven said these haunting
words, "I have this one thing against you, you have
lost your first love" (Revelation 2:4). Oh, Lord
don't let that happen in our lives. If and when we
do find ourselves guilty of losing our first love
here is the answer. Jesus said, "Therefore remember
from where you have fallen, and repent and do the
deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you
and will remove your lampstand out of its
place—unless you repent" (v. 5).
Even the apostle Paul did
not come to a place of no further growth in his
spiritual life. In a context which speaks of being
conformed to the image and likeness of Christ he
says, "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect,
have this attitude; and if in anything you have a
different attitude, God will reveal that also to
you; however, let us keep living by that same
standard to which we have attained" (Philippians
3:15-16). Paul makes it clear that he had not come
to the place in his Christian life where growth in
spiritual maturity has been completed, beyond which
there is no room for future development, and that as
a result he is now in a state of absolute spiritual
maturity. He has not reached a spiritual impasse of
non–development. I pray we never do either.
The word "perfect" here
is not referring to sinless perfection. He is
talking about relative, spiritual mature, stages of
growth. We are perfect in growth at a certain stage
in our lives. Ann and I have an 18 month old
granddaughter who is perfect for an eighteen month
old, but not for an eighteen year old. It means
"full–grown" in contradistinction to undeveloped.
It is used of a full–grown man as opposed to an
undeveloped youth. It is used to mean a professor of
"mature in mind" who is "qualified in a subject" as
opposed to a new student in the subject. In other
words, there is plenty of room for us to continue to
grow in His image and likeness until He returns for
This attitude is the
opposite of the righteousness of the Pharisees which
was fatal. Theirs was a self–righteousness. In our
day it is Jesus Christ plus anything else. To
believe oneself to be in possession of righteousness
of his own making or contribution is fatal. We
receive an imputed righteousness that is imparted
through the work of the Holy Spirit. Even what we
produce is of grace. God does it through His Holy
Spirit working in and through us as we yield to Him.
Dikaiosune is plainly a gift which God gives
to those who ask for it. It is the only way God will
give it. We must depend upon the power of God to
achieve moral righteousness in our personal life.
There is perhaps no
greater secret of progress in Christian living than
a healthy, hearty, spiritual appetite. How good is
my spiritual appetite? What do I crave in my
spiritual life? God satisfies only those who are
Not only must we have a
sense of poverty in righteousness, but Jesus
emphasized we must "have a passionate and persistent
longing for it" (Plummer). How serious am I about
having a right relationship with God? Do I crave for
a mature, intimate love relationship with Jesus
Christ? Am I serious about it? How strongly do I
crave that kind of relationship with Him?
What am I hungering and
thirsting for in life? Complete
this sentence: "I would be happy if
_________?" "For to me living is ___________,
and to die is ____________."
The righteousness in our
daily life includes a moral righteousness that
pleases God in our character and conduct. This is an
inner righteousness of the heart, mind and motive
that manifest it in our outward behavior. The root
of that righteousness is in the heart. Our imputed
right relationship with God should work itself out
in out moral imparted righteousness. The Holy Spirit
works out what He has placed within. This is what we
should be hungering and thirsting for in our daily
life. Martin Luther expressed this when he said,
"What is required is a hunger and thirst for
righteousness that can never be curbed or stopped or
sated, one that looks for nothing and cares for
nothing except the accomplishment and maintenance of
the right, despising everything that hinders this
end." This kind of righteousness affects every area
of our lives.
Only observed behavior
changes. To whom am I accountable besides God?
Do you have someone other than God to whom you are
In a very real sense we
are what we eat spiritually.
What is it that I seek
with all my desire and desire it above all else? Do
I have a burning thirst for God's will to be done in
my life, home, work and professional life? Do I long
for God's will to be done like people who are hungry
and thirsty long for food and drink? Do I want more
than anything else to do God's will? Do I want
others to do likewise? Do I want to see the members
of my church seek with all their heart to do God's
will, or am I pursuing selfish–pleasure?
In my intimate love
relationship with Christ there should constant
appetite. There should be a daily hunger for God.
There is a constant hunger only to be satisfied and
come again and again to be refreshed by His holy
presence. We are to keep coming and eating and
drinking of his well that never runs dry.
There is no indication in
this passage that we will have an experience that
will say we have arrived. It is just the opposite.
It is a growing satisfaction, a repeated process of
spiritual growth. Jesus keeps before us the
expectation of a future enlargement. Only when we
see Jesus in heaven will we hunger and thirst no