Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness


ILLUS.: 1975 – invitation to join the SADF – one of those invitations that doesn’t have the option “I regret I am unable to attend…” During one of my stints in 1979 – was in SWA [Nambia] and Angola – very arid – stuck out for day – ran out of water and food – drank juice of tinned peas and eventually ran out of peas!! The helicopter tat eventually brought supplies was most welcome sight!


When there is deep hunger and thirst your consuming goal becomes satisfying that desire.

In the beatitudes there is a spiritual progression as they build on one another.

There is “spiritual progression of relentless logic,” observes John Stott. Each step leads to the next and presupposes the one that has gone before.

  • To begin with, we are to be “poor in spirit,” acknowledging our complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God.
  • Next we are to “mourn” over the cause of it, our sin, yes, and our sins too––the corruption of our fallen nature, and the reign of sin and death in the world.
  • Thirdly, we are to be “meek,” humble and gentle towards others, allowing our spiritual poverty (admitted and bewailed) to condition our behaviour to them as well as to God.
  • Fourthly we are to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

– For what is the use of confessing and lamenting our sin, of acknowledging the truth about ourselves to both God and men, if we leave it there? Confession of sin must lead to hunger for righteousness (The Message of the sermon on the Mount, p. 46).

Can we sincerely describe our relationship with God saying, “Lord, I love You with all my heart?”


So the question before us is how badly do I want to change? How intense is my hunger and thirst for God?




The first beatitudes is Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

The poor in spirit will become spiritually prosperous BUT the road to that prosperity is by way of hungering / thirsting for righteousness.


This “hungering and thirsting” signifies a genuine continual craving of the soul. He is not referring to an occasional desire to be right, but “a passionate concern” for that which is right. This is a metaphor for an intense longing desire. You want it so strongly you feel the pangs for it. It is a matter of life and death. Your very existence depends on that one-cup of water, or that one loaf of bread.

This intense craving is the evidence of life. Spiritually dead people have no appetite for spiritual things. The apathetic are anaemic in their spiritual life?


The Greek grammar expresses a “hunger and thirst” for complete things. I want the whole loaf of bread. I want the whole bucket of water.


Jesus told a one-sentence parable … (Matthew 13:45-46). Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

His passion for one thing caused him to get rid of all else!


“Righteousness” means to be right with God, and in our personal lives it means being and doing what is right. It is a conformity to God’s Word and Will.


John Stott … “The hungry and thirsty whom God satisfies are those who ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ Such spiritual hunger is characteristic of all God’s people, whose supreme ambition is not material but spiritual. Christians are not like pagans, engrossed in the pursuit of possessions; what they have set themselves to ‘seek first’ is God’s kingdom and righteousness.'”

Some Christians don’t think we should talk about money and possessions in Church – as if a personal / private affair outside God’s concern. 15% of what Jesus taught was about money/ possessions .. more than on Heaven and hell.

Another way … Matthew 22:37 … Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” If we love Him we will obey Him (John 14:15). If we have an obedience problem we have a love problem. This beatitude helps us to love Him with all our heart.

Imputed Righteousness

Jesus is addressing those who already belong to Him. Such individuals have been pronounced right with God based upon what Christ did for us. This is our legal righteousness or justification. God declared us righteous in His presence the very moment we believed on Jesus Christ personally.


This is not a self–righteousness, or righteousness obtained by works of obedience or fulfilling a religious law. What God offers is righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). The only obedience that satisfies God the Father is the obedience of Christ. We are declared to be in a right relationship with God based upon the person and atoning work of Jesus Christ. “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation . . . for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).


Matthew “is not suggesting that people can make a strong effort and achieve the righteousness of which he is writing: it is a given righteousness, not an achieved righteousness. The blessed do not achieve it but hunger and thirst for it,”


The legal basis of such imputed righteousness is the death of Christ. Jesus died as our substitute (2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:9). Paul makes that clear in II Corinthians 5:21. “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is our position in Christ. Cf. Ps. 32:1-2; Rom. 4:3, 5, 9b, 13, 16, 22, 24; Gal. 3:5ff.

Imparted Righteousness

In these words of Jesus there is the emphasis on the impartation of righteousness or sanctification.

“Though it is impossible for good works to justify anybody, it is just as impossible for a justified person to live without doing good works,” … William Hendriksen.


There must be an intense desire to live a life of righteousness, pleasing God with my daily life.

The Bible knows nothing of those who say they are saved, but care nothing for their daily walk with Christ.

Surely that is not what Jesus has in mind here. … later in Matthew Jesus says, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).


Just as the body craves food and water these people hunger to be like God.

It is the hunger for moral good. … depending not upon our own power to achieve this righteousness, but upon God. It depends on our cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

It is only those who “hunger and thirst” after God’s righteousness who will be fully satisfied.


How does this hunger and thirst for righteousness become fully satisfied?

By the imputation of Christ’s merits. Thus we obtain a righteousness of inner condition and outward conduct.

[Cf. Romans 8:3-5; II Corinthians 3:18; II Thessalonians 2:13.] These two are inseparable: those for whom Christ died are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Thus Paul prayed for the Philippian church, “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11).


The Christian life is not static; it is a growing thing (3:12-14).

On a scale from 1 to 10 …

  • how hungry am I for spiritual things?
  • What is my attitude toward personal righteousness?
  • What do I hunger for in life?
  • How is my appetite for the truth of the Bible?
  • How is my appetite for fellowship with other believers?
  • What is my attitude toward worship?
  • What is my attitude toward deep spiritual truths?
  • Do I have a passionate concern for unbelievers?

Jesus Christ is our perfect model of hungering and thirsting for righteousness.




Jesus said those who have this “wholehearted longing” for righteousness will have a full measure. They won’t get just a taste; they will get the whole thing.


Don’t miss the emphasis Jesus is making. This is all of grace. Even in the Christian’s life this righteousness is a gift of God. We do not achieve it in ourselves.


Jesus used the word “satisfied” with a root meaning the placing where the grass grows and animals graze. It describes cattle feeding on a beautiful, luscious, green meadow. The ideas are to satisfy with food, to be fed full, and completely satisfied. “They who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall, under the Messiah’s reign, be fed full, completely satisfied.”


However, it does not mean to be full once and for all, so as to have no more desire. “Hungering and thirsting” are in durative present tenses, i.e., the hungering and thirsting continues and increases in the very act of being satisfied.


So our prayer should be … “Lord Jesus increase my hunger for you. Please increase my capacity to love you”.


Even the apostle Paul did not come to a place of no further growth in his spiritual life. In a context which speaks of being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ he says, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (Philippians 3:15-16). {NASB}


Paul makes it clear that he had not come to the place in his Christian life where growth in spiritual maturity has been completed, beyond which there is no room for future development.

The word “perfect” [or mature – NIV]  here is not referring to sinless perfection. He is talking about relative, spiritual mature, stages of growth. We are perfect in growth at a certain stage in our lives.

ILLUS.: an 18 month old baby girl maybe said to be perfect for an eighteen month old, but not for an eighteen year old.


It means “full–grown” in contradistinction to undeveloped. In other words, there is plenty of room for us to continue to grow in His image and likeness until He returns for us.

This attitude is the opposite of the righteousness of the Pharisees which was fatal. Theirs was a self–righteousness.


How is my spiritual appetite? “It is not enough to mourn over past sin; we must also hunger for future righteousness” (Stott).

Not only must we have a sense of poverty in righteousness, but Jesus emphasized we must “have a passionate and persistent longing for it” (Plummer).


How serious am I about having a right relationship with God? Do I crave for a mature, intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ? Am I serious about it? How strongly do I crave that kind of relationship with Him?

What am I hungering and thirsting for in life?

Complete this sentence: “I would be happy if _________?” “For to me living is ___________, and to die is ____________.”


In a very real sense we are what we eat – also spiritually.

What is it that I desire above all else?

If it is a passion for righteousness – then it is a passion to be like Christ.

Jesus said “My food I to do the will of him who sent me – God”

Matthew 5:48 48 Be perfect, …, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 9:36-37 36 When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (NIV)

Do we want to be happy, blessed, fulfilled in your life … do you want the kind of righteousness that Jesus talks about here?

How passionate is your desire to receive this righteousness?


ILLUS.: a man lost in a desert. He was dying for a drink of water. He stumbled upon an old, weather-beaten shack. Sat down in the shade of the shack to get away from the heat of the desert sun. About 15 feet away there was a rusty, old water pump. He dragged himself over to it and began to pump up and down, up and down. Nothing! Bone dry!

Disappointed he sank to the ground. As he glanced around he noticed an old jug in a corner with a message written on the old label. “You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug, my friend. P. S.: Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.”

He unscrewed the cap and sure enough there was a jug full of water. Now he was faced with a decision. He could drink the water and survive awhile; OR he could pour all the water into the rusty old pump, and maybe it would yield fresh, cool water from the deep well. He could have all the water he wanted.

What should he do? There was no telling how long ago those instructions were written.

Nervously he picked up the jug and walked over to the well and poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle of the pump and began to pump as fast as he could. . . squeak, squeak, squeak the old leather valves sounded like they were tearing apart. Then a little bit of water began to dribble out, then a little more water, and finally it gushed forth. Clean, clear, cold, fresh water poured out the rust old pump. He drank and almost drowned himself in the beautiful, clear water.

Then he filled the jug for the next weary traveller. Before setting the jug down he added this note: “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.”


Jim Elliott – “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot loose!”


John 7:37-38 37Jesus … said …, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, …, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (NIV)


Wil Pounds (c) 1999

J R W Stott – Christian Counter Culture

D A Carson – The Sermon on the Mount

D Martin Lloyd-Jones – Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

Wm. Hendriksen – Matthew.

Michael Green – Matthew

J M Boice – The Sermon on the Mount


Blessed are those who hunger

and thirst for righteousness.


Matthew 5v6


  1. 1.       The spiritually prosperous have a passion for personal righteousness.
  • Not an occasional desire to be right but a passionate concern for that which is right


Imputed Righteousness

–  a legal righteousness / justification

based upon what Christ has done.

–          given, not achieved .


Imparted Righteousness …

–          becoming like Christ / sanctification based on God’s work in us.

–          given not earned.


2. A righteousness that satisfies.

  • A righteousness of inner condition and outer conduct.
  • ALL of grace


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” Jim Elliott


One thought on “Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

  1. Acknowledge our complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God…oh my, how true and how hard. But oh, the joy in the morning when we have given it all away and then He starts to give it back. Thankyou Lord!

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