“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”Matthew 5:6, NRSV
William Barclay wrote, “By implication, [this Beatitude] lays down the main cause of failure in the Christian life. That cause of failure is simply that we do not sufficiently desire to [follow Christ]….If we are prepared to bend every energy, to sacrifice everything, to toil with sufficient intensity, to wait with sufficient patience, we will succeed in getting that on which we have set our hearts.” The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer for Everyman, pages 49-59.
That Jesus would include this Beatitude makes sense in light of the three previous beatitudes. A disciple of Jesus recognizes her poverty of spirit, prompting deep grief and mourning. This is followed by the recognition that human passion must be constrained, the primary characteristic of meekness.
Such human transformation is difficult work and consumes our energies and attention. This requires nurturance – as Jesus says, “hunger and thirst.” Reality sets in. The “food” previously consumed causes spiritual gout, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. No wonder Luke cites a negative version of the same Beatitude.
“Woe to you are full now for you will be hungry.”Luke 6:25, NRSV
The best New Testament reference to hunger is found in Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the Prodigal Son. In the parable, the youngest son requests his share of the inheritance whereupon he travels to a foreign land where he wastes away all his wealth. At the pit of his moral bankruptcy, the young son comes to his senses (blessed are those who mourn) as he scavages for food in a pig stye.
He admits that he would have better treatment and the quelling of his hunger as a servant in his father’s house. His stomach and his Spirit hunger for the nobility and righteousness of his old home as opposed to the rude and crude way of the world. He has an appetite for his father that he never felt before.
Prayer: O God, you and you alone can satisfy the ravishing hunger that we experience eating the junk food of the world. Help us to listen to the growling of our spiritual hunger and turn to you alone for blessing and filling our craving. In Jesus’ name. Amen.