The Beatitudes of Promise: The Promise of Righteousness

This sermon is part of the tuesday evening Community Lenten Series.

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

Matthew 5.6

Do you know what it means to be hungry? To be truly hungry? I don’t mean that little grumble in your stomach between mealtimes. I mean gnawing at you, hunger.

Not many of us truly know hunger. For me (and maybe as well for you) hungry is “I’m hungry for…” It’s more like “I have a craving for …” and most the time you can just fill in the blank with chocolate, for me.

Do any of you women ever ask your husbands what their hungry for? “What do you want for dinner tonight?” I might as well be talking to the wall. Randy’s never hungry for anything. I really think women are given the gift of “I’m hungry for …” so that we have something for dinner each night. We don’t know true hunger.

Except maybe some of you who are old enough to remember the Great Depression or have heard your parents talk about it. I find that most people who remember the Great Depression don’t want to remember the Great Depression. It was that bad. One time a number of years ago I was asked to sing some songs for at a nursing home facility and I picked some songs from throughout the 1900’s and when I announced a song from the depression era there was groan through the whole room. They remembered. I thought, “Oh boy what did I do. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” But it was a nice upbeat tune that was written to encourage people through that time and so it was enjoyed.

I know I really don’t know a lot about the Great Depression. Randy and I watched a movie not so long ago, “Cinderella Man” which is set during the Great Depression. And it really gave a glimpse into how hard those times were – how hungry and desperate people were. It is the story of the heavyweight boxer, Jim Braddock. His career was thought to be over, but he was given a second chance and made an amazing recovery and went on to win the championship. Commentaries say that during his comeback, Jim Braddock lied about his weight, he had lost so much weight from hunger that he really didn’t even qualify to be a heavyweight anymore. During an interview after an amazing win Braddock revealed that the driving force behind this champion, was not a love for the game, it was feeding his family, it was keeping his family together, it was getting the heat turned back on in their little apartment in the middle of winter.

That’s what it means to be hungry.

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

Hungry for what?
It’s time for a commercial break! What product advertises using the simple question, “Hungry?” The first was “Hungry? Why wait?” Now it’s become “Hungry? Grab a _______”.
(Snickers) I knew I’d be able work chocolate back into this somehow.

I recently caught a news segment on seniors and obesity. One of the key points to avoid obesity was: get enough sleep. Basically we mistake exhaustion for hunger. Too many afternoons we are grabbing that Snickers candy bar instead of the cat nap that our bodies are really craving. We rely on (our drugs of choice) sugar or caffeine to get us through the day. The other Snickers slogan is “Snickers Satisfies”. If what you are really needing is sleep, it might satisfy for a little while, but it’s going to be short-lived. You’ll be left wanting more. You’ll be left not with a statement but with a question, “Satisfied?”

If we do this to our bodies physically, do we do the same thing spiritually? Are we in tune with what we really need? Or do we substitute the wrong things in our lives for our spiritual hunger?

  • Do we watch too much Oprah and Dr. Phil instead of reading our Bibles? Do we watch those self-help shows because we don’t like who we are, because we’re not happy, because we want things to be different? When God is the only one who can bring true change, transformation, to our lives?

Are you satisfied?

  • Do we look for success – a job promotion, a good income (a better income), a nice home, a nice car when what we really want is a deeper relationship with God. We want to know God more and we are substituting the things of the world for things of God. We are filling our lives with meaningless things instead of God. We are working harder and harder and are busier and busier when what we really want deep down is to make a difference in the world and the only way we are going to do that is by giving ourselves to God and opening ourselves up to be used the way God desires.

Are you satisfied?

  • Let me press the envelope a little more … We get unhappy in our churches (oh, I’m sure that isn’t the case in this church) but some churches have people that are unhappy, for various reasons: they want more people in worship when what they really want and don’t know it is God’s heart of compassion for people. It’s not about counting people, it’s about loving people, caring for people, reaching out to people.

Are you satisfied?

  • Or some churches have folks that think they should be able to come to church and have a relaxing, comfortable hour of worship, when what they really want and need is to be challenged in their spiritual life and spurred on to growth and to be actively involved in true worship which involves service. (Do you know that worship and service are the same word in the New Testament Greek? Interesting.)

Are you satisfied?

So if we are that clueless as to what we really want or need; what will bring satisfaction, how do we discover what we really want? How do we discover what will bring true satisfaction into our lives?

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

In the examples above I have given you some answers: a deeper relationship with God, a life yielded to God, a life transformed by God, being used by God, a loving and caring heart that looks not at self but others.

The words in our text name it as righteousness. The first definition of righteousness from the New Testament Greek is the “state of him who is as he ought to be.”

Righteousness lost
You’ll remember the Genesis account of creation, where God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness …” (Gen 1.26). We were created in the image of God, but after the fall, after sin entered the world, that image became tarnished and distorted. But God wants to restore that image. God wants to make us “as (we) ought to be.” He wants to restore us to righteousness. He wants to clean away the tarnish and perfect the image once again. He wants to again see his reflection in our lives.

Again, how do we know what we really want? Let me suggest that there is a connection between physical hunger and spiritual hunger. Perhaps there is a call to fasting in this verse: a call to give up (abstain from) physical food for a given period of time in order to be satisfied with the spiritual. Fasting in order to hear God more clearly, to gain spiritual direction.

Matthew 4 Jesus fasted 40 days in preparation for entering his public ministry. His motives were clear and pure. He gained focus. He grasped God’s plan for his life. He knew his purpose. ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
John 4 When the disciples return from town with food, Jesus says, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." The disciples were then puzzled, but came to understand this statement.
Matthew 9
The Pharisees questioned Jesus as why the disciples did not fast.
15Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
In Acts Jesus disciples are once again fasting.
John 6
Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in
me will never be thirsty.”

Righteousness restored
God’s promises are sure. God longs to fill us with righteousness. He longs to restore us, heal us, complete us, make us whole. God will satisfy your longing for righteousness, but we must first ask.

There are always paradoxes in scripture and I believe this is one of them. We will always hunger and yet we will always be satisfied. I believe the more we “taste and see that the Lord is good” the more we will hunger for God and his righteousness. That is until that final day, when this life is over, when we meet Jesus in the skies, then we shall truly be satisfied and hunger no more. Then we shall be “as (we) ought to be” – once again made in the perfect image of God.

“Hungry” by Kathryn Scott
Hungry, I come to you for I know you satisfy;
I am empty, but I know Your love does not run dry;
And so I wait for you so I wait for you.

Broken, I run to You for Your arms are open wide;
I am weary, but I know Your touch restores my life;
And so I wait for You so I wait for You.

I’m falling on my knees
Offering all of me
Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for.

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