Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blessed are the Hungry and Thirsty for Righteousness, Beatitudes Pt 13

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled."—Matt 5:6

This beatitude reminds me of when our kids come to us and simple say "Hungry!" To which we have to respond, please ask, "Can I have a snack please?" However their raw expression speaks to the rudimentary nature of what Jesus is saying. We don't have to train our kids to realize that they are hungry. It's part of who they are. And when they are hungry, they want to be filled or they get very cranky.

Before getting into what this beatitude actually means, I have to be honest about what I've heard preachers say that it means for most of my life. "Blessed are those who do right things." Or "Blessed are those who live a moral life." Or for the more fundamentalistic sermons, "Blessed are those who line up (that is attend church faithfully, pay their tithes, and volunteer for ministry)."

But that is not what this beatitude is saying. First of all, the use of the metaphors of hunger and thirst must cause us to see that Jesus is talking about something that happens within us. This is not about us having the will-power to make the right moral choices. This is about being a person whose inner character longs for, yearns for, craves after, aches for this other thing. In other words, there is a huge dissatisfaction with the status quo. This is not about pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps, although morality is a good thing. Jesus was naming the fact that there were those who want something in their gut so badly that they will do whatever it takes to go after it. After all, this is what happens when we are hungry or thirsty. There is little that drives us as much as an empty stomach or parched lips. That to which Jesus is referring is as central to our lives as food and water.

Now to the second point, that of righteousness. If we are going to understand how this beatitude extends beyond modern notions of personal piety and morality, then we need to look into what this word actually meant in the days of Jesus. This word carries the connotations of justice, of the fulfillment of God's just rule in the world, of the completion of God's Kingdom in such a way that the world is put to right. In other words, this word points to God coming in the Messiah in such a way that evil is driven out and the presence of God is restored in the midst of God's people so that the world might be turned around.

This beatitude goes far beyond personality piety and morality. If you start with piety that's all you get. But if you see God's righteousness in this light, you can see God's action for the whole world and get personal piety thrown in. But it's not personal piety for piety's sake. Our lives change because we are caught up in the huge river of God's movement to put the world to right. Moral living occurs as I realize that God is doing something much bigger than saving me.

This beatitude then is talking about having an inner compulsion that drives one to long for, hope for and yearn for the coming of God's complete restoration and fulfill his work of salvation in the world. Those who are followers of Jesus will find themselves on a path that develops this within them. This stands in contrast to the normal ways of the culture where we hunger and thirst after the pleasures of life, those pleasures that dull our senses, appease our pain and fill us up with that which cannot meet our deepest longings.

Those things that we typically view as blessings (bigger houses, nicer cars, better jobs) can keep us from going deep within our souls to see what we really want. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are no longer satisfied with such banal food.

How do we learn to participate in this journey of discipleship so that we get in touch with this hunger and thirst within? Any ideas before I write my thoughts on this matter?

No comments: