“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Mat. 5:6
Hunger and thirst–words that can easily reach a point of desperation. If these words are not satisfied we soon die. For Jesus to apply these to the longing for righteousness implies a level of need that I for one have not often experienced. I certainly agree that righteousness is something we should aspire to, and I enjoy those moments whenever I get to taste it in my own life, but something seems to be missing in me that would cause me to have such an intense desire for it. What is it that I don’t see? It’s obvious that righteousness is something that Jesus wants me to pursue more intentionally in my life-with the promise of blessing. According to Jesus, there is something that needs to be filled in my life by what this word represents for us.
Righteousness – it is a word we rarely use in our day, except in the negative connotation of ‘self-righteousness.’ What exactly does righteousness mean as it applies to you and I? I know a little from experience of the satisfaction of having behaved, or spoken from a place of righteousness. How do I know? Well, I guess because it feels so affirmed in my heart. I sense in those moments that I am exactly the way I am supposed to be, and that it is good in God’s eyes.
I also sense that righteousness is something that is particular to who I am—that there is some unique expression of righteousness that only I can fulfill. It gets worked out through the subtleties of my personality, it comes out in the tone of my voice, or in the particular way I look and respond to people. These are life expressions that each of us, original as we are, uniquely get to be. Just think of it, you have your very own niche of righteousness in the kingdom!
Lest we get carried away with the idea of being righteous though, we read in Scripture that righteousness is not something that we can create on our own. Our best attempts at it are like rags compared to the real thing that can only come from God. The righteousness that we are filled with is in fact the very spirit of Christ flashing its character in us, reflected in the uniqueness of our personality and the actions of our life. It is the grace and beauty of Christ’s life expressed within ours.
It is His righteousness, not ours. That’s why there is no credit to be had, no self-congratulation and especially, no self-righteousness. Our job is to seek to grow in our desire-to hunger and thirst for that which God offers to fill us with, and then to praise Him for the beauty of His actions within us.
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is-Christ,
For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his,
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
From Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.”
Rob Des Cotes
written for Nov 5, 2004
For Group Discussion:
1. How would you describe the ebb and flow of your longing for righteousness? What do you perceive to be the conditions of your heart and life that would be favorable to a robust hunger for righteousness?
2. Can you describe occasions in which you’ve been aware of the graced presence of Christ bestowing his righteousness in and through you?
3. Discuss the role of the disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, an intentional daily awareness of Christ’s presence, as well as the practices of self-denial, humility, simplicity, and obedience in fostering a strong desire for righteousness.
Our longings and desires reveal much about the state of our hearts, taking inventory of them can be very humbling! In the quiet and spaciousness of prayer, thank God for the measure of desire you have for Him and his righteousness, and ask by his grace to increase this desire to the exclusion of temporal and trivial desires that need to be set aside.