Lesson 4 – Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness Sake

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness Sake

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”  Matt. 5:6


The word “satisfied” is a very beautiful word.  The goal in almost every “life encounter” is satisfaction for a need from within our hearts and minds.  Even a loser can enjoy satisfaction in knowing he or she did their best.  The sports player does not necessarily need to win to be happy.  They, as well as we, do need satisfaction to be happy.  Winners do not always enjoy satisfaction if they do not do their best.  Jesus introduced an emotional attitude about doing our best.  First we seek God’s righteousness and then we make His righteousness our practice (I John 2:29; 3:7).

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.  Matt. 7:24

Jesus used the word “practice.”  It is a synonym for a good habit.  A habit is a function of our character.  It may be different from a behavior we perform in different cases depending upon the situation.  A good habit has three components: The first involves the perception of what needs to be done in a given situation.  The second is about how to do what we know to do.  Are we competent?  We need to have the skill to perform what needs to be done.  The third element involves one’s willingness to allot the time and energy to perform the task.  Practice, in the context Jesus used the word, is the third stage of learning.

Jesus taught the laws of life for Christians who desire to live with God as His children eternally.  The first element of learning is to understand what He said.  This is called cognitive learning.  The next stage of learning has to do with how a person feels about what Jesus taught.   Do we think His teaching can possibly give satisfaction for one or more of our innate needs?  Is He teaching truth about life?  Does He have the power to do what He is promising?  This is the faith stage of learning.  This is heart learning.  It is called the affective stage.  The degree of our zeal, or passion, for Jesus’ teaching will depend on the strength of our character to practice what He taught.

When we make Jesus’ teachings our habit we have accomplished the third and final stage of learning.  Our will is controlled by our faith and our faith is in the teachings of Jesus.  In order to be a disciple of Jesus Christ we must learn in all three stages.  Judgment Day will be based on the third stage of learning.  All scriptures about judgment are about Christians’ performance – behavior – habits (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:28; Rom. 2:6; II Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12).  There are many false teachers going about leading people to believe that they will be saved by grace on Judgment Day.  This is a lie according to the scriptures.

Because there may be some confusion in the translation of the scriptural terminology of spirit (Greek, pneuma), soul (Gr. psuche) and body (soma), the following is how this writer’s understands the use of these words.  See I Thess. 5:23.    Since words have meaning in the sentence in which they are used, we need to consider the context of the sentence to determine what the author of the sentence meant.

Gen. 2:7.  “The Lord formed the man (Hebrew, aw dawn – Adam) from the dust of the ground (Hebrew, adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being (KJV, soul – Heb. nephesh, a living creature).”  Note, the dust of the ground (body) plus the breath of life (spirit) became a living soul.  Where the two entities, body and spirit come together something is formed that has life.  It is a living soul.  The first living soul was Adam.  He was a type of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:14).

John 10:10, 11.  Jesus said, “I came that they might have life (Greek zoe – as in eternal life).”  And, “The good shepherd lays down His life (Gr. psuche, living soul) for the sheep.”  W. E. Vine makes the following observation in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:  “…speaking generally, psuche is the individual life, the living being; whereas, zoe is the life of that being.  Compare Psa. 66:9, ‘God…which holdeth our soul (psuche) in life (zoe).’”  Vine said, zoe also means “…of life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it; whereas, psuche generally means the natural life as in Matt. 2:20.”  In context, these two words do not always have these meanings; however, they usually do.

I Cor. 15:49.  “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”  Therefore, the description of Adam in Gen. 2:7 plus Gen. 1:27 describes all people of the human race (Acts 17:24-28).  All people have a spirit in a body; therefore, they are living souls.  All children’s spirits who are alive to God: Such are the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3).  Christians’ spirits have “crossed over from death to life.”  John 5:24.  Our spirits are alive to God, but our bodies are sentenced to death (I Cor. 15:22).  Still we seek the salvation of our souls (psuche- the security of our spirit in a body).  It is the goal of our faith (I Pet. 1:9).  Our spirits will leave our present bodies at the time of our physical deaths (Jas. 2:26).  However, we, our spirits (selves), do not want to be without a body (II Cor. 5:1-10).  Christians who are in fellowship with God via His Spirit, when our spirits leave our bodies, will receive new bodies in the resurrection (Rom. 8:10, 11; I Cor. 15:42-44; I John 3:1-3).  This is the salvation of our souls.  Our spirits, who will be sons of God, will live in heaven in a body like Jesus now enjoys.  The spirit of a human being in a body is a living soul.


The fact that Jesus used the word “satisfaction” and “hunger and thirst” in the same sentence shows He is keenly aware of our inherited drives.  Of course, it should not surprise us that Jesus knows all about mankind because it was through Him all things were made (Col. 1:16).  An inherited drive is defined in this lesson as being something with which we were born.  In other words, it is not a learned urge.  It is something within people that pushes them to demand satisfaction from their environment.  The stronger the drive the more our happiness depends upon its satisfaction.

Modern psychology tells us how our happiness depends upon how well and how many of our inherited drives are satisfied.  Hunger and thirst are thought to be the strongest inherited drives people possess in the “physical needs” category.  Jesus summed up His comments about this human need by saying, “Seek ye first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matt. 6:33.  The priority Jesus gave to righteousness in relation to our happiness is equal to the importance of food and water for our physical needs.  Therefore, before we can understand Jesus’ beatitude, we need to understand the following subjects He introduced in our text:

  1. What did Jesus mean to convey by His use of the word righteousness?  For an answer to this question we will need to study Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome.
  2. Why did Jesus use the analogy of people’s need for food and water?  What are the facts about the inherent needs of man-kind?  God’s story of Himself in the Bible is a story about God making available to mankind the material things and principles of life we need to satisfy the way He designed us.
  3. What is the relation of innate urges, or needs, to the development of people’s emotional attitudes?  What is an attitude and how does it relate to personality?  Please read items A-D on page three of Lesson One in Part I.
  4. In what sense is the word “blessed” used?  Is blessed in our text a synonym for happy?  If so, what is Jesus’ concept of a happy person?  Matthew used the Greek word “makarios,” translated “blessed” in our text.  It means to pronounce happy.  See Vine’s Greek dictionary.
  5. What is meant by a person being “filled?”  The world offers many different answers (I John 2:15-17).  Jesus offered the identification of a child in God’s kingdom over which He was given the rule in these last days.
  6. Finally, how does this attitude align with the other attitudes taught by Jesus in this discourse in order to develop an inte-grated person?

What is this righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst?  It comes from the Greek word “dikaiosune,” which literally means the character or quality of being right or just.  It was formerly trans-lated rightwiseness.  This clearly expresses its meaning.  It is used to denote an attribute of God.  It belongs in the behavior category.  Matthew used this word in Matthew 5:6, 10, 20; 6:33.  He spoke of whatever is right or just within its self, whatever conforms to the revealed will of God.

God enlightened us about the correct concept of righteousness in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.  See some of his points in the following list:

1)  There is a righteousness of God and a righteousness of man; however; Jesus was speaking about God’s righteousness in His sermon (Rom. 10:3).

2)  There are two concepts of righteousness we need to grasp:

a)  One, righteousness is the behavior of God.  His behavior is controlled by His nature. God is holy; therefore, His way of fulfilling His will is righteous.  Since God is holy, He does not accept sinners in His fellowship; therefore, God’s righteous decree is that sinners deserve death – separation (Rom. 1:32).  At the same time God passed over sins and fellowshipped sinners like Abraham and King David (Rom. 4:1-8).  God’s holiness is witnessed by His faithfulness to His decree in His righteous act of sending Jesus to die on the cross.  Jesus demonstrated God’s righteousness in His life and in His death (Matt. 3:15; John 12:27, 28).  He taught and lived the will of God which is the righteousness of God in His behavior (John 5:19).  Jesus died for all people who would have faith that His blood is a propitiatory sacrifice to God for their sins (Rom. 3:25, 26).

b)  Two, there is a “gift of righteousness” offered to Christians (Rom. 5:17).  It is through this gift that grace reigns in Christians’ lives (Rom. 5:21).  This gift of righteousness is given to Christians because God was faithful to His righteous decree.  “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
Rom. 3:22.  Christians are counted righteous by God as He views our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus’ blood (II Cor. 5:21).  Christians’ lives are justified (Rom. 5:9-11, 17, 18).  We are what God says we are because of our faith in every aspect of Jesus Christ.  We are God’s children (Rom. 8:16).   The foregoing is the doctrine of justification by faith (Rom. 4:25).  God has made covenants with mankind based on this doctrine since Adam and Eve broke covenant.

3)  God’s fellowship and covenant quality has been greatly magnified because of the improvement in the quality of the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood (Heb. 10:1-3).  The Holy Spirit now indwells Christians (Gal. 3:11-14; Eph. 2:22; Titus 3:4-7). Christians have peace with God (Rom. 5:1; Heb 8:12).  “No guilt, no fear and God is there:” This was the environment Adam and Eve enjoyed before they sinned.  God has restored this spiritual environment for Christians “in Christ.”

4)  “The righteousness of God by faith” speaks from the hearts of Christians.  It confesses to “whosoever will;” Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:5-10).  This involves much more witnessing than a few words uttered before baptism in water.  This is an attitude, it is not a ritual.

5)  Christians offer their bodies as “instruments of righteous-ness.”  Rom. 6:13.

6)  Christians are obedient to our faith which leads to right-eousness (Rom. 1:5; 6:16).

7)   We are slaves to God and His righteousness (Rom. 6:18-23).

8   The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who have faith.  It is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16, 17).

All the foregoing is the attitude of a person who is hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  This is not a list of sayings or rituals.  They are not things Christians do because God commanded us to do them.  This would be righteousness by works (Rom. 3:27-31).  This is the behavior of a person who has an attitude of strongly desiring righteousness.  This attitude has its base in faith – things hoped for (Heb. 11:1).  There are people who have faith they can have a life that is “filled.”  In the world realm it is mostly evident in young people.  They experiment with faith in this or that, finally some learn about God’s righteousness.  They learn God will count them righteous after they are born again.  They have faith in God’s truth and love revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They seek the results of applying the principles of God’s righteousness to their lives in order to have the benefits of the Christian life experience.  They seek fulfillment of their potential.

They want to be filled.  This means they want to be well nourished in body and spirit.  The intake of proper food will nourish the body.  Learning truth nourishes the soul.  They want to be happy.  Happiness is the result of being filled.  Happiness does not precede the development of the beatitudes based on experimental faith.


So, it is God’s righteousness and not our own of which Jesus spoke.  What is God’s righteousness?  It is whatever God is and does.  God’s wrath is God’s righteousness (Rom. 9:22).  God’s righteousness was revealed in Jesus Christ, His Son.  “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  Romans 10:4.  God’s righteousness has been revealed to the world today in the teachings and deeds of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the attitude of hungering and thirsting for righteousness must be a developing emotion while a person is still lost in sin.  When he or she hears the gospel this attitude will be strengthened.  It is the same attitude the pearl merchant had when he found the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:45, 46).

When people understand how God was faithful to His own righteousness they will have faith that they have found true righteousness.  Then when they are told they can have a gift of God’s righteousness while they improve their own behavior, it will bring untold satisfaction to their soul.

What is the connection between a person’s inherent needs and their seeking to use God’s righteousness as their own behavior?  Consider this, people with good mental health love our “soul life.”  The motivation for hungering and thirsting for righteousness is based on an experimental faith in God’s righteousness and love for ourselves (Eph. 5:33).  People who love themselves examine themselves and they will want to fix what they find “broken.”  It is a natural attitude.  People want to fix the things they love, or need, when they break – be it our vehicle or kitchen appliance.  God told Isaiah to tell the people “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  Isaiah 64:6.  God thinks our righteousness needs an overhaul.

People who have a “poor in spirit” attitude listen to God.  If they have this attitude of hungering and thirsting for righteousness they will respond in faith to His advice.  They will adjust their unrighteous behavior in order to attain satisfaction for their innate urges.  God’s righteousness will always work for mankind because He created us in His likeness (Jas. 3:9).

Hence, we love ourselves like parents love their children.  The emotion of hungering and thirsting for righteousness is developed in obedience to our faith in God’s parental type love (Greek – Agape).  Parents hunger and thirst to use right behavior to rear their children so they will be happy.  God loves all the souls of mankind because the spirit of these souls came from Him.  When they are broken and unfulfilled He is grieved because He is love (I Tim. 2:3-6; I John 4:16-18; Eph. 4:30).  When people hear the truth and have faith, they know they have found the solution for fixing what is broken in their lives.  Their hunger to have things right within themselves is motivated by their love for themselves.

If they also have the attitude of a mourner, they will want what is right for other people as well.  Their fulfillment is the result of practicing God’s righteousness.  Everybody, the world over, agrees on one thing, we want to be happy.  Jesus tells us how.  He connects our innate needs to the development of a healthy personality in His sermon.  Being fulfilled is the result of the success of the program.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What was Jesus’ wisdom in using the analogy of thirst and hunger in the lesson text?
  2. Why does the word “satisfaction” have a pleasant tone?
  3. Why is Jesus a proper source for information about satisfaction for our innate needs?
  4. Write a summary paragraph that includes the subjects Jesus introduced in our text?
  5. Name the letter in the New Testament that will best inform us about “righteousness.”
  6. What is the difference in the two concepts of righteousness presented in this letter?
  7. What is the motivation for using God’s righteousness to fix one’s unrighteous behavior?
  8. How does the attitude in our text relate to other attitudes we have studied in this series?
  9. How does becoming a slave to God’s righteousness relate to hungering and thirsting for righteousness?
  10. How does a Christian reap the reward of “being filled?”

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