“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
Happy are those who long for righteousness. Righteousness, good works, and moral uprightness are not ideas our culture has been known to pursue. Even as Christians, we have been nervous about pursuing righteousness too strongly for fear that we come across as trying to earn favor with God by our works. Preach holiness and obedience too strongly, and people will attack you saying, “Where is the grace?” Preach it too softly, and you’ll hear people rise up saying you are getting too soft. The concept of righteousness in Jesus’ day was equally as controversial given the Pharisees’ dependence on outward righteousness. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” you better believe that the Pharisees were standing by listening, patting themselves on the back thinking, “Well, we’re good on that point,” and “He’s got at least one thing right.” So what exactly is Jesus getting at when he says, “Blessed are those who long for righteousness”?
He is not just saying happy are the bad who want to be good. He’s getting at something more important. At the core of what he is saying is blessed is the one who longs for rightness in their relationship with God. As followers of Christ, we are to be mourners over the wrongness of sin. As followers of Christ, we are to be poor in spirit because of our lack of righteousness. As followers of Christ, we are to long for righteousness because of our broken relationship with God. You are blessed, you are eternally happy, when you recognize the wrongness of your sin, and therefore long for the ability to live in right relationship with God.
As we talk about righteousness, we must diligently remember that the righteousness that comes from man and the righteousness that comes from God are vastly different. The righteousness that comes from us is a façade. It’s a farce; it’s a mask. Righteousness that comes from us ultimately comes from the flesh. And Romans 8:8 tells us about the righteousness that comes from our flesh when Paul says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” What sort of righteousness is there that doesn’t please God? It’s not righteous at all.
The righteousness that comes from God, on the other hand, is not a farce. It’s not a mask; it’s an outward fruit produced by an inward reality. It’s a rightness in our actions and our thoughts and our mindset, BECAUSE our hearts have been redeemed, and because our righteousness is not from ourselves, but from Jesus’ given righteousness. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the great exchange, the trading of our flesh with Christ’s perfection is at the absolute core of what it means for us to long for righteousness. Therefore, the ultimate meaning of what it means to long for righteousness is for us to long for Jesus himself. Blessed are you who long for Jesus. Happy are you who long for rightness produced by Jesus himself. Blessed are you when you are right before God because of Christ. Because you long for Jesus, the promise is clear: you will be satisfied!!