Matthew 5:6 Matthew 5:6 (New International Version)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I have given this passage much thought and meditated upon it many times and still have not plumbed the depths of it. The usual way we hear the passage is that it is saying to us that we should deeply desire to be righteous people. We hear it saying that we will be blessed if we long to be righteous. This sends us down an internal pathway of, “How can I do a better job of cleaning up my life and removing the sin from the crevasses of my soul?” We focus on spiritual disciplines and try to be more righteous in Bible reading, prayer, fasting, meditation, etc. This is all good and is perhaps one message we are to receive from Matthew 5:6. It is not the whole message nor is it the main message of Matthew 5:6.

The major message of this passage is that we are to hunger and thirst (long for, seek as though our lives depended upon it) for righteousness/shalom/justice in the world. Righteousness (dikaiosuna) has the sense of whatever conforms to the revealed will of God and things that are “just, equitable, and fair.”* Thus, when we see things that are not righteous in the world, when we see things that are not just, equitable, and fair, our hearts should long to see justice. When we see aboriginal women standing on the corner offering themselves for prostitution in the downtown eastside (DTES) of Vancouver our hearts should say this is not right, this is not just, this is not fair, this is not equitable, this is not shalom, this does not conform to the revealed will of God. Such things should make us long for righteousness in this situation. We should hunger and thirst that this thing should be made right. It should move us to action. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled/satisfied/saturated.” We cannot rest until we have filled our hunger and thirst for righteousness.

This morning, I was reading an article by Meera Bai and John Stackhouse called “Why I Help Addicts Shoot Up.” I have never been a supporter of InSite (the Vancouver safe injection site) and I still am not sure I can support it despite the reduction in harm it may accomplish. But when I read the article it made me hunger and thirst for righteousness in the drug culture of the DTES. Reading this article one can readily see that this is not right, this is not just, this is not shalom. Even InSite does not seem right, just, or equitable even though much grace, love, and care is being extended. The answer lies in hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We need to hunger and thirst for things that will stop the cycle. The authors say

Having witnessed three generations of the same family shoot up in the same room, I have come to understand that injection drug use is far from being the result of one bad decision. It is the outcome of a complex of systemic, familial and individual influences that must not be oversimplified to “It’s their fault. They should just quit and get a job.” I am still shocked by the stories of abuse that I hear at InSite.

This is not right. My heart hungers and thirsts for righteousness that will prevent the abuse that will prevent the need to dull the pain of the abuse. I hunger and thirst for other solutions to the pain. I hunger and thirst for something other than InSite. I hunger and thirst for the Kingdom of God.

*Take a look at the word meaning in W.E. Vine’s, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words or Harold K. Moulton’s, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised.

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