And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you,] and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.Matt. 5:1-12
Interpreting the Phrase
As with the previous “blessed” phrases, it is important to break them down into more definable parts for better comprehension. For this purpose, let’s first have a look at “hunger and thirst”, followed by “righteousness”. Hopefully this will help seekers of faith to better understand to correlation between the two parts of this beatitude from Jesus.
To be clear from the onset with blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, Jesus is not speaking here of hunger and thirst for the physical body, but he is using it as a strong metaphor. He is speaking rather of the spiritual yearning, or strong desire, to be filled with God’s righteousness. It is a bit more like being famished for food and parched for water as comparable themes for desiring God’s righteousness. As with those physical sensations of hunger and thirst that burden us until satisfied, the emphasis here is on having a strong spiritual urge to seek after his righteousness.
Jesus commonly referred to food during his teaching, often expressing his messages in idioms and metaphors. As a case in point, he used food as a reference to himself, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” [John 6:35] While he is not actual physical bread for consumption, he is the spiritual bread and spiritual water for your soul and spirit so to speak.
To carry this theme a bit further, Jesus is the answer to people’s hunger and thirst for righteousness. When speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, he gave reference to the physical water from the well in comparison to the spiritual water that he offers people, “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” [John 4:10]
He continues his notable dialogue with the woman and further clarifies the contrasting type of water he is providing, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” [John 4:13b-14] This is the portrayal of new spiritual eternal life that comes from God by illustrating it with common things people would relate to such as food and water. As your body hungers and thirsts for physical elements, so should your spirit and soul hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness.
Transitioning now to the word righteousness from this Blessed phrase, it occurs some three hundred times throughout scripture and it is first noted of Abraham, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” [Gen. 15:6] Righteousness is accounted to someone for their belief, or faith, in God and trusting in God’s provision for their life. It is the Lord’s righteousness imputed upon someone and not a self-righteousness as is commonly perceived by many today.
Righteousness in Scripture
Looking back in scripture, we can see how righteousness plays out in the lives of some notable people. As the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, he declared how God had blessed his father (David) as he walked before God, “And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as [it is] this day.” [1 Kings 3:6] The correlative words to righteousness are noteworthy here such as truth, mercy, uprightness and kindness.
Righteousness not only originates from God but it is loved by him, “For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” [Ps. 11:7] Righteousness is also referenced in the most popular of King David’s writings, “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” [Ps. 23:3] The righteousness of God is also clearly not one that is temporal in nature as noted by David, “Thy righteousness [is] an everlasting righteousness.” [Ps. 119:142a]
Source of Righteousness
But just exactly how does one hunger and thirst after this righteousness that comes from God? The book of Proverbs provides excellent instruction in this regard,
“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth [cometh] knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: [he is] a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; [yea,] every good path.” [Prov. 2:1-9]
Although a bit lengthy, this collection of verses by Solomon provides sound guidance on the path of righteousness but the good news is this path is not one of human effort or work as some might think of work.
The book of Romans as written by Paul illustrates the distinction for Israelites who had historically adhered to the Mosaic law and who now felt it should also form part of the Christian faith. Their thinking and rationale was that keeping the law made them righteous in their own standing. Paul though articulates a well crafted refutation of this and then clarifies where true righteousness comes from, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” [Rom. 3:21-22]
Christ is our Righteousness
For many people, the notion of becoming righteous before God is thought of as something they must do themselves, but this has created many false religions and cults based around the folly of good works, deeds and human effort. This is typically a by-product of the dangerous admixture of true Christianity along with the inclusion of false doctrine from a secondary source of supposed enlightenment. While there is nothing wrong with performing good works and deeds, they should be viewed more as the fruit of righteousness from God in someone’s life versus a pathway to righteousness on their own.
Paul continues to explain the difference, leaving no margin for self-righteousness, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, [I say,] at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” [Rom. 3:23-26]
This discourse on Israelite law versus faith in Jesus is packed full of many terms which will be discussed in later studies such as justified, redemption, remission and propitiation. The point being made though is there is nothing in fallen mankind that is righteous, nothing at all; righteousness always starts with God and ends with God.
Importance of Faith
To recap thus far then, it is important to realize that it is God’s righteousness that people are being instructed to hunger and thirst after and not a self-righteousness which is thought to come from their own merit. This is the tragic fallacy of many people who think they are heaven bound because they are “good persons”. This is why Paul continues on with his discourse, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” [Rom. 4:5]
Faith, or belief in what Jesus has already accomplished through his death, burial and resurrection as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind is when and where righteousness is imputed to people. There is nothing people can do to achieve salvation on their own merit. This is where this beatitude, blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness comes into fuller appreciation in realizing righteousness originates from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hence, Paul outlines the path of righteousness and salvation in this noteworthy scripture, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” [Rom. 10:9-10]
Jesus also reinforces this same message when the people asked him what works of God they should be doing and he simply stated, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” [John 6:28-29] For those not sure, it is Jesus who was sent into the world, Jesus is referring to himself as the person to believe in.
It is again through believing, or placing of faith in the finished work of Jesus that gives people the righteousness of God. This can be described as the great exchange as Paul wrote, “For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” [2 Cor. 5:21] What better exchange exists in the world today than to exchange our worthless sin for his righteousness; for they shall be filled indeed! This is where the phrase blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness is truly fulfilled.
To close off this Bible Study on blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, it is with earnest prayer that this becomes an opportunity for seekers or faith to come to an understanding, knowledge and awareness of this foundational part of Christianity. As one yearns and desires for God’s righteousness and comes to saving faith through belief in Jesus, they will truly be filled as Paul writes, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” [Eph. 3:17-19] This is the only true righteousness that exists in our fallen world!
Bible Study Questions
- In this study on blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, what did Jesus mean when he used the terms hunger and thirst?
- Why do you think he used simple terms to portray more deeper truths to the people about faith?
- Can you name the verse where Jesus describes himself as the bread of life?
- Where does the true origin and source of righteousness come from?
- Where does a false sense of righteousness from from and why do you think so many people believe this?
- What does it mean to have God’s righteousness in you based on this study called Blessed are they which do Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness?
- Have you made a decision that Christ may dwell in your heart as Paul wrote about in the last verse mentioned above?
WORD GUIDE – * (countenance – appearance) * (doth – archaic form of does) * (buckler – a shield for protection) * (propitiation – an appeasement or conciliation)
For reference, here are some frequently asked questions that are answered in this Bible Study. It is with sincere prayer that they have been answered through carefully researched and written commentary for seekers of faith. The absence of answers in the study is perhaps indicative that the events and circumstances were deemed less worthy of documentation in the overall importance of biblical scripture. What did Jesus mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness? What does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness? Matthew 5:6 meaning. Hunger and thirst after righteousness KJV. Hunger and thirst for righteousness illustration. Hunger and thirst for righteousness Bible verses.