july 2

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

By: Pastor Dennis Yim

Key Passage: Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.


Have you ever gone hungry? In my early days in seminary before I was married, I was forced to

live off of a tiny budget. There were days that I ate only one meal, and that meal was simply a

peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, or if I had enough saved it’d be a turkey sandwich with mayo

and onions. There were days I went hungry, but I took my mind off of my hunger by forcing

myself to study like a madman. But no matter how hard I tried to not think about how hungry I

was, I would always end the day torturing myself by watching food-bloggers on YouTube (I

don’t recommend doing this, trust me you’ll regret it). But this hunger helped me to understand

what Jesus is saying in this verse. One of God’s Kingdom norms for us is to literally hunger and

thirst for righteousness and justice. There are three important aspects for us to understand when it

comes to righteousness and justice: legal, moral, and social.


Legal: Legal righteousness is justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Jesus

Christ’s atoning work and person alone. This means that we should long for a right relationship

with God. But how is this possible for us? For the religious person the way to justification is by

working or doing enough good deeds to gain God’s favor and thus be justified. For the religious

person then, they are justified by their good works. But the same can be argued for the irreligious

person; they can form their own standards for atoning for their past sins and freeing their

conscious of them. Once again, just like the religious person, their justification is by their good

works. But the third way is the Gospel: we are justified not by working hard enough or doing

enough good deeds or trying to “fix” ourselves, rather we are justified by Jesus Christ alone.

What this means is that we are justified because of the person and work of the second person of

the Trinity. Jesus alone has done what is necessary to make our relationship with the Father right,

He has accomplished our redemption for us by living the perfect life and dying on the cross on

Golgotha; it’s only His work that can truly make us right. The beauty then is this: Jesus gives all

that He has accomplished by uniting Himself with us! So, it is truly by God’s grace alone that we

are deemed righteous! This is good news!


Moral: Moral righteousness is the righteousness of God’s character and conduct that pleases and

reflects Him. Moral righteousness affects our heart, mind and motive. If we long to love our

neighbors and community faithfully then we must have our whole being reflect the righteous

character of God. It’s quite clear in Scripture that as we were once dead in our sins, were

cancerous and chaotic in our communities; we lived for ourselves at the expense of others; we

had no desire to love nor see them thrive, we only wanted what’s best for us by dehumanizing

and distorting God’s world. So, instead of being truly human, we were once dehumanized beings

who were causing havoc in our communities. But in our relationship with Jesus, He restores our

humanity by giving us His image, in order that we may show the very character and conduct of

Jesus through our bodily lives. This is what Paul meant in his epistles when he talked about the

new man or new life. The change of our heart is a change of morals, without this change we

can’t love our neighbors well nor participate in God’s story of reconciliation.


Social: Both Legal and Moral righteousness naturally leads us to this third important aspect that

is usually forgotten by many churches: social righteousness. Biblical righteousness is much more

than a private and personal affair, it most certainly includes social justice. We can learn much

from the Old Testament prophets and even from the books of the Law. Both the prophets and the

law were concerned about seeking humanity’s liberation from oppression and slavery, civil

rights, justice in in the law courts and systems, integrity in business dealings, honor in home and

family affairs, and it sought after the flourishing of those who are in the marginalized (ex. the

poor, widow, orphan, etc.). If we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness, then we must

hunger for justice in the whole human community as something that pleases God.


There’s an outcry for justice in our world today. As Christians, we cannot turn away from these

agonizing cries. We cannot not do the bare minimum, but we must be radical shalomic justice

bearers who have been justified in Christ. Let us not hide or ignore the injustices in our world.

Let us not try to justify our inactions because we don’t agree politically or ideologically. Let us

not try to justify the inactivity of the church because the church is supposedly be interested only

in “spiritual” matters. Rather, let us take the justified life that Christ has given us and participate

in bringing shalomic justice into our communities. Let me end with this quote from Martin

Luther:


“The command to you is not to crawl into a corner or into the desert, but to run out, if

that is where you have been, and to offer your hands and your feet and your whole body,

and to wager everything you have and can do…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. If you cannot make the world completely pious, then do what you can.”