“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for (after KJV) righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
The longer I live, the more convinced I am that true discipleship starts with attitude and will. It is an internal desire and drive which determines direction and dedication. As a preacher, I say – give me one soul with limited knowledge, but filled with a burning fire to know, to grow, and to serve God – over one with much knowledge, but with no fire, nothing but apathy or velleity, and lethargy. I can accomplish much with the first. It is less certain I will accomplish something with the second. The second one has a much more serious and challenging problem.
The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG). This is about how to have real lasting happiness.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Let us consider three words. (1) The word “hunger” (peinao) is defined “to hunger… to suffer want… to be needy… metaphorically to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire” (Thayer); “hunger… figuratively hunger for something = desire something strongly” (BAG). This word was used of Jesus after He had fasted forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2). (2) The word “thirst” (dipsao) is defined to mean “to suffer thirst… figuratively, those are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened” (Thayer); “be thirsty… figuratively thirst i.e. long for something, have a strong desire for something” (BAG). This word was used by Jesus on the cross (John 19:28). (3) The word “righteousness” (dikaiosune) is defined to mean, “the character or quality of being right or just” (Vine’s); “in the broad sense, the state of him who is such as he ought to be… in a closer sense, justice, or the virtue which gives each one his due” (Thayer); “uprightness, justice as a characteristic of a judge… in a moral and religious sense uprightness… in specific Pauline thought… the righteousness bestowed by God… it closely approximates salvation… since d (ikaiosune) constitutes the specific virtue of Christians, the word becomes almost equivalent to Christianity” (BAG). This word is used in different ways in the Bible. It is sometimes used of right doing (e.g. Acts 10:34-35). It is sometimes used of having a right standing before God (e.g. Luke 1:6; Romans 4:3 cf. Genesis 15:6). It is sometimes used of salvation (Galatians 2:21; Romans 4:1-8), or the plan of salvation (Romans 10:1-3).
Those who will be blessed have a common trait. They have a strong desire to be right with God. Therefore, They value God’s word, and want to properly understand it. Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). David declared of God’s judgments, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:10-11 cf. Psalm 119:72). Solomon said of wisdom, “If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:4-5). Furthermore, They want fellowship with God. The Psalmist expressed this desire, saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). Paul proclaimed, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet, indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus My Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). Those who will be blessed desire righteousness. It is not only their desire; it is their priority. Jesus instructed, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
They shall be filled. Those who receive righteousness, first hungered and thirsted for it. Dave Miller has written, “Such hunger is rewarded with satiation… salvation is accured” (Editors Garland Elkins and Thomas Warren, The Book of Matthew, p. 198; Spiritual Sword Lectureship). H. Leo Boles has commented, “The promise is that ‘they shall be filled’; not partly filled, not modified in form, but completely satisfied or filled” (Boles, A Commentary on The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 123). J.W. McGarvey has commented, “Under a heathen religion, and even under Judaism, such a desire could not be fully satisfied; but under the rich provisions of the kingdom of Christ it may be; and the promise is that it will be. Compare Romans 8:3-4; Hebrews 7:11, 19, 25” (McGarvey, A Commentary on Matthew and Mark, p. 49).