Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5:1-10; Micah 6:6-8 “Blessed to Hunger & Thirst for Righteousness”

  • Sermon Details
  • Pastor Name: Rev. Daniel J. Commerford
  • Date & Time: March 6, 2016

For the last few years, I have been a part of a presbytery-wide committee called the Committee on Preparation for Ministry, or as we call it, the CPM. Our task is to guide those who live in the Atlanta area who want to become pastors through the ordination process, which includes a lot exams and interviews on top of a seminary degree. The ordination process can be very stressful and intimidating! Often, when we have candidates come in for interviews, it’s clear that they are very nervous and want to say the right thing. They are afraid that, if they say the wrong thing, they will be rejected from the process. Believe me, it’s easy to figure out when someone is saying what they think we want to hear, and when they are being genuine. In fact, that’s often one of the biggest signs that a candidate is ready for ordained ministry. When they give up on the desire to please us and share who they really are and what they believe, that is when we know someone may be ready to become a pastor.

I think we all know that desire to please others. At our core, we all have a desire to be loved and accepted, whether it’s from our parents, friends or coworkers. An in our faith life, the desire to be accepted by God is what drives our Christian life. We all want to live in a way that we are loved and accepted by God. It’s what makes us act on our beliefs, and it’s also what makes Christians fight with one another so much. Think about it. At the core of most disagreements between Christians is different beliefs of what it takes to be loved and accepted by God. And if we want to pin this quest down to one word, it’s safe to say that this is the quest for righteousness. Whether we are conservative, liberal, protestant, Catholic, whether we think about God all the time or only on occasion, all of us want to be righteous so that we can be loved and accepted by God.

But what does it mean to be righteous? Clearly, it’s something that is important, because Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for it will be blessed. Today, we will look at what Jesus means by saying that we can be blessed by hungering and thirsting for righteousness. In the process, I think we may be challenged a bit by what Jesus means by this, because it will lead us away from seeking rectitude so that we can seek relationships, both with God and with our neighbors.

Jesus says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Immediately, Jesus is continuing his work at redefining the word “righteousness” and what it means for us to be righteous. In a way, the definition of righteousness has never changed. Righteousness is our ability to stand before God who is perfect in every way without ruining that perfection. But how we attain righteousness is what Jesus is redefining, here. In Jesus’ time, righteousness was measured by rectitude, or one’s ability to behave morally. For the Jews in his time, being righteous was measured by one’s ability to follow the Law that came out of God’s commandment that he gave to Moses. If you followed the rules laid out in scripture, then you were righteous.

But Jesus’ ministry was all about correcting this false measurement of righteousness. Time and time again, Jesus reminded the Sadducees, Pharisees, and anyone who he came into contact with that no on is righteous by those standards. The Law that was given to humanity was to show how impossible it is to be righteous if we measure it by how morally we behave. By those standards, only God is righteous, and all of us fall woefully short of that glory. That’s why Jesus sought to define righteousness by the relationships we all hold. Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed us that God does not expect us to be perfect, but he does expect us to have loving relationships with everyone. Jesus’ whole ministry was about reminding us that God measures our faith not by our rectitude, but by our relationships, both with him and the rest of the world.

As much as Jesus reminds us that our righteousness is defined by our relationships, I think we have a tendency to continue to define it by our rectitude.         Think about it, if I were to ask us to identify a group by its description, and I said that this group is very devout to God and expressed their faith by staying as pure as they could, and they knew what was pure and impure by scripture, I could be talking about the Pharisees that Jesus opposed…or I could be talking about a vast number of Christians who still define their righteousness by rectitude. Too often, we make this mistake and try to follow the Bible in an effort to be loved and accepted by God. We look at our righteousness as a sacrifice, or currency that buys our salvation. We feel that the more we follow the Bible, the better Christians we are, and vice versa.

But the problem with defining our righteous by our rectitude is that we fail to listen to what God wants. Time and time again, God tells us that he measures our righteousness by the relationships we hold, not our ability to avoid sin. Jesus said this throughout his ministry, but he was not the first to do so. The prophet Micah, who we read from today, was speaking to a crowd that believed that righteousness came from strict adherence to the Law and fancy rituals. But the Lord spoke through Micah, saying that he has never desired those sacrifices, but rather a heart that does justice, loves kindness, and walks humbly. If we think about it, those are all relational terms! We must have relationships with the world to do justice and be kind. We must have a relationship with God to walk humbly with him. Time and time again, God has reminded us that our righteousness is not measured by our ability to follow the Bible or avoid sin, but rather by the relationships we hold, both with God, and our neighbors.

At this point, I think it’s very important that we go back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, because Jesus did not say “blessed are those who are righteous.” He said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness!” It’s not enough to be righteous or have loving relationships. If we want to be blessed, then we need to hunger and thirst for it! There is a big difference between passively wanting something and hungering and thirsting for it. When we hunger or thirst for something, we crave it, we constantly think about it, and we do whatever is necessary to get it. Over the last week, I have seen Hannah hunger and thirst to crawl. She is on a mission! She no longer is content with sitting around. Whenever she is awake, she wants to be on her belly so that she can work on connecting all the dots required to crawl. It’s been a constant journey for her, and she will not relent until she is crawling.

In the same way, God calls us not just to be righteous, but to hunger and thirst for it. That’s a hunger and thirst that will get us off our pews, out of our comfort zone, and into the world s that we can actively and relentlessly pursue the loving relationships God calls us to have. That will lead us to submit all of our hearts, souls, and minds to the Lord so he can transform us. It will lead us to love our neighbors, even those in Newton and Rockdale County, those who do not agree with us, those who make us uncomfortable. But this will all lead us to a type of righteousness that brings us closer to God, and through those relationships we will be filled! We will be filled with God’s grace, love, and mercy so that we can continue to share it with others.

So as we leave today, let’s all examine what we hunger and thirst for. We all have something. May we all hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, which will lead us to lovig relationships with God and our neighbors, so that those relationships may last forever. To God be all glory, honor, and praise, amen.