He’s eating me out of house and home! If you have a teenager, I’m sure you’ve said that like we have. Here’s picture of my 16 year old son Kaleb at a buffet on Mother’s Day. Four plates! A cup of soup and a bowl of ice cream. He’s just getting started and will be going back for more. What’s funny is that we’ll get home and within 15 minutes he’ll say, “I’m hungry” Today’s Beatitude is about hunger.
“Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, for they will be fully satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 (This week’s *MEMORY VERSE)
Been Hungry lately? In America, we’re so blessed being hungry is a Big Mac attack. Being thirsty is Miller Time. Did you know that over 20,000 people die of hunger each day is the world? There over 2 billion people that live on less than one dollar a day in the world and are often hungry.
We’re looking about real hunger, not simply those little hunger pangs we get between meals.
We are blessed to live in the United States, a rich country with vast areas of land, great crops produced and incredible gardens and orchards! Over 100 billion pounds of safe, edible food is thrown away here in the United States every year by retailers, restaurants, and farmers.
Hunger is not something we like to think about or face very much.
Being hungry is never pleasant. In fact, hunger can inspire bizarre behavior in us as humans. When we’re hungry, we sometimes do foolish things, sometimes we get irritable, like we see in the Snicker’s commercials.
I finally figured out why fashion models always look so intimidating when they’re walking down the runways…they’re hungry! They only weigh like 28 lbs, so they can’t be eating! So they march around looking so mean because they’re so hungry! Someday it would be fun to sneak in and throw a slice of pizza on the runway! That would be pandemonium! Like sharks at a feeding frenzy!
Hunger isn’t pleasant. We don’t look forward to when we can be hungry. We don’t reminisce about the wonderful times of being hungry we’ve had. Hunger is not something we normally desire.
Yet Jesus has something very interesting to say about hunger, and we’re going to look at it.
We are studying the Beatitudes found in Matthew chapter 5, in the sermon on the mount. Jesus is describing how to be happy: from our inward attitudes not our external circumstances. He has been using contrasting ideas to express these things, by using a term over and over again…Makarios: (translated “Happy or Blessed”) It’s a word that the ancient Greeks used to describe the gods or the elite of society who were insulated from the hassles and cares of life on this planet.
But Jesus uses this word, “blessed or happy” content, satisfied, not to describe gods or the upper crust crowd, but rather the least expected to be satisfied of all, the poor in spirit; those who feel the pain of mourning; the hungry! He does this to contrast the worlds idea of the way things are, to God’s view of life and it’s meaning. Today we look at:
Happy or Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Now, I have to tell you, I’ve heard and read a few sermons about this verse. And in all honesty, what I’ve heard about this has not always left me feeling all that great. I hope to take this in a different direction. I really want to get a glimpse of what Jesus has in view when he’s saying this to the crowd that day and to us today.
“Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness.” Jesus was talking to people who understood what it meant to be hungry or thirsty. In that region, few were prosperous, and more than likely, at one time or another, those listeners that day had experienced the kind of hunger he’s talking about here. It’s a desperate kind of hunger. For the word “hungry” there are two words in the Greek. One of them means, “I want a bite of something — give me a piece of bread.” The other meaning in the Greek is “I want the whole loaf!” Guess which one Jesus uses here, yeah, the second one. Jesus says “Happiness comes for people who say, `I want all of God there is!”
It’s the same with thirst. He uses a strong word to describe thirsting: “dipsao” (dip-sah’-oh), which means to painfully feel the need for water.
What these two metaphors are directing us toward is the concept of human desire.
The desire for food and water are the strongest appetites we have as human beings. Why is it so difficult for so many Americans to loose weight? Because that desire for food is powerful, and difficult to fight with. Hunger is powerful. It controls us, it so often determines our directions.
I’ve read soldier’s accounts that fought in WW2 & Viet Nam, and some of those soldiers suffered the terrible conditions of the Battle of the Bulge, where supply lines had been cut, and those guys were days without food, in the cold. So often they recorded how they would spend their time in the foxhole talking about their favorite food, or sleep and DREAM about eating their favorite meal.
This is the kind of hunger Jesus is talking about when he says those who are hungry for righteousness are blessed. You know what’s interesting about hunger like that?
When I have gone a long time without eating, I never dream about eating cabbage, onions or tomatoes; mainly because I hate that stuff! Now, if I’m really hungry and that stuff was put before me, I’d eat it right up. But in terms of how my craving is being expressed, when I’m hungry and I think of food, I think of the food I love.I notice that the soldiers I mentioned talked about their “favorite” foods, when they would dream of satisfying their hunger.
I think it’s interesting that Jesus used the metaphor of hungering and thirsting. Besides being powerful desires, but the satisfaction of those appetites is a very pleasant thing. Eating is fun! It’s pleasurable! We enjoy it – just look at the big smile on my son Kaleb’s face.
And yet, it’s been my experience that much of the teaching I’ve had on this passage has not been very pleasant at all. While we may be on the same page when it comes to understanding the passion behind the words “hunger and thirst”, when it comes to what we hunger and thirst for, I believe things get misconstrued.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to this passage explained by others and walked away with an uneasy, sickly, sense of condemnation, because so often it’s been presented like this:
“If you’re hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you are going to be memorizing Bible verses, praying at least an hour a day, reading and studying your Bible, and never missing a church meeting.” It comes across as though hungering and thirsting for righteousness is knowing what all your obligations are, and doing what you ought to do!
This is why I have walked away from this passage and messages on it so many times with my head hanging down, because I felt I wasn’t ever going to get all those obligations sorted out! If I were honest with myself, I liked doing other stuff BESIDES memorizing scripture verses, and I felt condemned.
So, because we are supposed to be hungry for righteousness (if we’re good Christians) we are suddenly confronted with a plethora of obligations that we aren’t getting accomplished. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness becomes another way of expressing DUTY.
I have to tell you, this is totally contradictory to the imagery that Jesus is using here.
No one who’s normal, when he’s hungry, starts thinking about his obligation to eat. No one thinks “Man, I’m hungry, it’s really my duty to eat some food so that my body has fuel” or “I’m so hungry, and I know I’m obligated to eat, so I guess I better get to it…sigh”.
NO WAY!! When I’m hungry, if I’ve been out working outside, and lunchtime is rolling around I don’t start thinking, “I really OUGHT to be eating”. Not likely. I’m going over in my mind all the stuff I really like to eat… BBQ…or chicken, a hamburger, Mexican Food, Anything Italian, shrimp, and I’m getting excited because not only is my hunger a driving desire, the satisfaction of that hunger represents something pleasurable to me, not an obligation!
Do we really think that Jesus, in this Sermon on the Mount is telling us how to be happy by beating us up and pointing out our religious obligations?
It’s like he turns from being a caring Savior to being a drill instructor with one sentence…. “LISTEN UP moron…if you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness then you WILL learn to love sitting in a hard pew instead of enjoying football games…you will LOVE archaic hymns, and you will learn to cherish and memorize the KJV of the BIBLE, MAGGOT!!!
Do we really think that’s what Jesus was saying? And yet, that’s what we project on Him when we equate hungering and thirsting for righteousness with stuff we should be doing. That completely misses the depth of what He’s saying.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t say “blessed are those who work up a hunger and thirst for righteousness”? I really think we get confused here, because we start assessing our lives and the things that we enjoy and come away thinking, “man…I really don’t seem to have a hunger for righteousness”…
And that’s the BIG MISTAKE. Because no matter who we are, we DO hunger and thirst!
In the next post we’ll look how to get FULL, be satisfied and happy about it.