Hunger and Thirst

In the past two weeks, I have been taking a closer look at the Beatitudes Jesus spoke at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount.  First up was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The key point being that we need to recognize our own spiritual bankruptcy, that we are helpless before God to save ourselves. Next was, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” which contained the promise that we would be comforted in the midst of recognizing and mourning our spiritual helplessness and that of others. And, most recently, was, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,”in which we are reminded that the power we have in this life should be controlled and channeled toward doing good toward others rather than evil. Today, the focus is on, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Hunger and thirst were common experiences for those in the crowd gathered around Jesus. For them, neither water nor food were in abundance. Each day was a struggle for these necessities, and it would not have been uncommon for them to have gone without either for a time. I have very little experience with either hunger or thirst. The closest I have come is when I have fasted, and the few times I found myself on a very hot day without adequate water. From those experiences, what I do know about hunger and thirst is that your mind becomes quickly focused on what you do not have. Thoughts of food and water dominate your mind. In the most desperate of situations, it is practically all you can think about.

So, here is Jesus saying that we will experience blissfulness if our minds are continually focused on righteous living and doing all we can to make that a reality in our lives. In other words, the pursuit of righteous in our lives is all-consuming, as is the pursuit of food when we are in the throes of hunger or water when we are desperately parched. We want it so badly that we can taste it!

This ties in well with the first Beatitude. If we do not recognize our desperate need for righteousness, we will not think much about it or pursue it. A body that is functioning properly is one that lets us know when it needs food or drink, and the more we deprive it, the louder its voice of protest. So, if we recognize our spiritual bankruptcy, then our hunger and thirst for righteousness will naturally follow. We want it. We need it.

We want to love our enemies and do good to them. We need to treat others as we would desire to be treated. We want to be reconciled to a brother or sister with whom we have had a falling out. We need to trust God rather than to worry. We want to seek his Kingdom first and foremost. All other things in life recede into the background. Unlike Martha, we do not allow the seemingly urgent things of the moment distract us from what we truly need. Desperation quickly reorders priorities.

As I have contemplated the implications of the Sermon on the Mount, I think the main thing is it sets forth the priorities of the Kingdom, which we so often miss. Our priorities are naturally shaped by the world around us, but, as we see in the Sermon, God’s priorities are quite different. Our lifelong challenge is to make the Lord’s priorities our priorities and to pursue them with the same intensity of a hungry person pursuing food or a thirsty person pursuing water. So, so often we miss the mark. Instead of trusting God, we seek to take the reins of our lives and situations. We desperately seek to turn them the way we want to go. The truth is that righteousness can only be found in obedience (Romans 6:16). Thus, this Beatitude can be summed up this way: If we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, then our focus will be entirely on obeying the Lord and we will be content. Will we always be successful? Of course not, just as one desperate for food or water won’t always find it. But that will not keep them from their desperate search. Neither should our disobedience stop us from continuing to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our spiritual poverty compels us to keep searching, to keep obeying.

The picture that Luke paints of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus seeking to absorb all he is teaching her is one of peace and contentment. The picture of Martha, on the other hand, is one of frenetic activity and frustration. The contrast sums up Jesus’ desire for us, as he proclaims in the Sermon. If we trust him and hunger and thirst to obey him, our lives will be much more like Mary’s and much less like Martha’s. 

In this chaotic world in which we live, I want my life more and more to resemble that of Mary and less and less that of Martha. With the Lord’s help, that is possible.

© Jim Musser 2021

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