Hungry and thirsty people are driven people. When we are hungry and thirsty, the drive for food and water takes over, and nothing else matters. After all, food and water mean life and not death. So when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” He was saying that our longing for righteousness and freedom from the death that sin and the shame bring is a blessing.
That’s what righteousness means to those who are bankrupt by the pain of sin and broken by its shame. There is a vacuum in our souls and only righteousness can fill it. Now we know that all that gave us identity before we declared bankruptcy actually brought us into grief and broke us so we were empty and desperate for something to give us new meaning. Augustine put it well when he said, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” And Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, and only God can fill it.” God fills it with the righteousness of the Bread and Water of life.
For most of us righteousness is a behavior word that means doing right things, but righteousness is far more than a behavior word; it’s an impact word, a results and relationship word. It speaks of doing right things that bring right results in our relationships. It’s entirely possible to do right things and have wrong results, particularly when we do right things in the superiority of self-righteousness. We may do right things, but we have wrong relationships, and that’s destructive.
Righteousness is first a relationship word, then a behavior word. In fact without a right relationship we cannot do right things. Righteousness is the first deposit God makes in our bankrupt spiritual accounts when we trust in Jesus. He credits His righteous to us (Romans 3:21-26; II Corinthians 5:21). Once we taste the forgiveness and freedom His righteousness brings, we want more and more of it until it becomes the greatest craving of our lives because it results not only in a right relationship with God but with those around us so marriages are healed, the hearts of fathers are turned to the hearts of their children, torn families are brought together, often for the first time, and we find a wholeness we never had before. Jesus is right: when righteousness becomes the greatest longing of our lives, righteousness brings the greatest fulfillment we have ever had.
So it is that our hunger and thirst for righteousness growing out of our bankruptcy results in the greatest satisfaction we have ever had, the satisfaction of right relationships, the fruit of the grace of right behavior. Hungry and thirsty anyone? Find your fulfillment in the righteousness of right relationships with God and others.