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How Is Your Appetite?


MATTHEW 5:6 28 APRIL 2024

This verse is probably very familiar to most of you today. Of course, it is part of the message Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount and one of the teachings of Jesus that we call the Beatitudes.

Those verses say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted.”

Our hunger and thirst for righteousness are at the core of our Christian lives. This verse calls us to an unquenchable hunger and thirst for righteousness.

This verse calls out to us. Hunger and Thirst are common in our lives. We all get hungry and thirsty physically.

As I wrote that statement, I realized that we all get hungry, but I rarely experience physical hunger. I experience physical thirst frequently, but not so much hunger.

Then I realized why I don’t experience physical hunger much. The reason is that I eat anytime I want to without hunger.

What really is happening there is that I eat too often – even when I am not hungry.

However, as we examine this verse, we understand that Jesus is not talking about physical hunger and thirst.

He is talking about the hunger and thirst that is yearning to be filled with God's goodness.

Author J. I. Packer once wrote:

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”

The hunger and thirst we seek is from the yearning of our souls.

It is not a yearning for worldly things. The yearning is deeper than worldly things.

It is for a deeper, spiritual nourishment. A deeper quenching than anything physical can bring to us.

The hunger and thirst we feel in our physical bodies are powerful forces. They cause us to seek sustenance. We seek to find something to eat for nourishment to satisfy that noise in our stomach because we are empty and need to be filled.

But there is another kind of thirst and hunger.

This thirst and hunger are not physical. These are spiritual hunger and thirst.

They are yearnings within us – powerful longings that cannot be satisfied with physical food and drink.

It is a hunger for righteousness. It is a thirst for more of God.

This spiritual hunger is a powerful force in our lives.

It pushes us toward God. It causes us to seek Him out. It causes us to reach out toward righteousness.

It causes us to desire to live according to the will of our Father God.

This desire is not passive—it is active and causes us to pursue righteousness actively.

Hunger and thirst are simply words. But Words are powerful. And that is why Jesus chose to use these two words in Matthew 5:6, where he says:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

The words Hunger and Thirst can seem very strange to many of us who live in a country abounding with leftovers and a surplus of everything that we could want.

Just to illustrate this fact, I read about a man who, every Tuesday morning, at 6:00 a.m., goes to the Houston food bank to collect at least a couple of hundred pounds of surplus food for free. It’s given away.


In another city, there are over 150 establishments where you can purchase food by walking in on any normal business day.

Hunger and thirst are words that we often use to describe what we don’t want to be: hungry or thirsty.

Maybe the reason for that is that we know what the words hunger and thirst mean.

But if you didn’t, all you would have to do is look up hunger and thirst in a dictionary. You would be able to find out their definitions, and if you did that, you would end up with a rather good idea as to what they mean.

But you see, there is a world of difference between knowing what a word means and experiencing the effects of that word.

For instance, the word pain can mean something vastly different to a person who has never suffered harm or injury a day in their lives than it would for a person who has endured massive physical pain and agony.

Even the word love will mean something different to a ten-year-old child than it does to a forty-year-old man.

All words have a basic definition; you can find that in a dictionary.

However, only human experience will determine the degree of intensity that definition will have for you.

Hunger and thirst are words that need to be experienced to the degree of knowing hunger and thirst to understand what they mean.

When Jesus used the words hunger and thirst in Matthew 5:6, he intended for us to experience them, not simply define them.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In Matthew 6:25, these words are written:

"Life is more important than food.”

On the surface of that statement, can you understand it? How can that be right?

Yes, we do need food to live. What happens if you never eat? You will die.

So how can life be more important than food? You might think that, at the very least, they should be on the same level. Life and Food – is their importance much the same?

We often try to define what Jesus means when He speaks this kind of wisdom, like when he said: “Life is more important than food.”

How many of you have ever been on a medical fast? You know, the kind where you don’t eat for 8 - 10 - 12 hours so the doctor can check your blood or run some kind of test the next day?

Isn’t it funny how food smells so good after you are told that you can’t have any?

Let me ask you, how many of you have been on a medical fast and have cheated on it? You know, you fasted six hours instead of eight? Or eight hours instead of ten? or ten hours instead of twelve? What does an hour, one way or another, matter?

Let’s say that you have. And you go for the exam or test day. They draw the blood, take X-rays, and send you home. A couple of days later, the doctor calls you and says:

“After looking at your test results, we feel that we need to run some more tests to make sure that we are not mistaken. You will need to go on a fast again, this time for twenty-four hours.”

Things sound a little more serious this time. And guess what, you don’t cheat on your fast this time. Do you know why? Because you have just experienced what Jesus meant when he said:

“Life is more important than food.”

Those of you who have experienced words like hunger and thirst don’t need a dictionary to tell you what they mean, do you?

But most of us who have been born in a country where satisfying the growling of hunger or the quenching of thirst is as easy as turning a tap for water or opening a refrigerator to get something to quiet the growling stomach may not be able to tolerate to the intensity of meaning which the listeners of Jesus' day might have.

At that time, if you did not work, you did not eat. Therefore, many of the people who heard Jesus say these words could easily relate to them because they knew what it was like to have to go to bed with the pains of hunger gnawing at your stomach.

Back then, children didn’t have the luxury of satisfying their hunger by snacking on something between meals. They knew what being hungry meant to a great degree.

Being thirsty had a greater intensity of meaning back then also because people were dependent on wells and streams, and both of these would often go dry.

Of course, in Matthew 5:6, Jesus isn’t talking about being hungry for food or thirsty for water. He says: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

But He applies the same intense meaning to someone who is that hungry and who is that thirsty for righteousness in their lives.

  • Blessed are those who yearn for righteousness as a starving man longs for food.

  • Blessed are those who desire righteousness as a man perishing of thirst longs for water.

But if we desire righteousness with the same intensity as a man starving for food or as someone dying of thirst, I think we should try to discover what righteousness is.

If we were to go to a dictionary for a definition of righteousness, it would say something like this: “Someone who conforms to the moral law.”

But we know that Jesus had more than just a definition of righteousness in mind when he said that we should hunger and thirst for it.

When he said righteousness, he had in mind an intense experience. Righteousness deals with a longing of the soul. It deals with your relationship with God and his son, Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist said it best when he wrote in Psalm 42:1-2:

“As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs for thee oh God, my soul thirsts for God, the living God.”

If you long for righteousness like that, Jesus says you will be blessed. Blessed are those whose most intense desire is to have a right relationship with God.

The question for today is this: “How bad do you want to be in a right relationship with God?”

Do you want it as much as a starving man wants food? Or As much as a man dying of thirst wants a drink of water?

The Bible repeatedly describes people who wanted to have a right relationship with God but didn’t want it bad enough.

For example, we can read of a very rich young man in Luke 18:18-23 who came up to Jesus one day and told him that he wanted to be in a right relationship with God all his life.

He obeyed all the laws. He played by the rules. And so, he tells Jesus: “I have done all the right things. How can I have a right relationship with God?

He really asks how he can obtain eternal life, but obtaining eternal life can only come by having a right relationship with God. Jesus tells him, "Go sell all that you have and give to the poor.”

Jesus says: “Is having a right relationship with God worth that much to you?” But the Bible tells us that he went away sorrowfully.

Because he didn’t want it as badly as a starving man wants food or a man dying of thirst wants water. Oh, he kept all the rules. He practiced the right forms.

But you see, righteousness is a matter of the heart and not just the head or stomach.

It starts way down deep in the soul, and it longs to be satisfied.

There was another person the Bible tells us about who also wanted to be right with God.

He came to Jesus one day and said: “Lord, I will follow you wherever you go.”

And then Jesus told him the cost when he said: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to rest his head.”

If this were the price required for you to be in a right relationship with God, would you be willing to pay it?

Jesus even challenged his own disciples one day with the same question, when he told them: (Lk.14:26)

“If anyone wishes to come to me but loves his father or mother, children, brothers or sisters or even his own life more than me, he cannot be my disciple.”

What that means is: “Do you want to be in a right relationship with God enough to give him the unconditional first place in your life? Above everything and above everyone else?

But if in your mind you are thinking that maybe you would like to give him a try or come to some terms with him that lean a little more in your favor at first.

And for those of us who may be thinking that we have attained this righteousness that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5:6, we must understand that in the original Greek language in which this text was written:

“The words Hunger and Thirst are in the imperfect tense, meaning that it is a continuous action.” In other words, you must always be hungering and thirsting for righteousness or to be in a right relationship with God.

It’s like saying; You eat today and are satisfied, but tomorrow you are hungry again. Even the expression of the word Righteousness in the original language has great meaning.

Here is a little lesson in the Greek language, which, of course, is the language of the New Testament.

In Greek grammar, there is the Genitive case and the Accusative case. The Genitive case is expressed by the word “OF,” such as when we say, “I would like a slice of bread.” “Of bread” is in the Genitive case.

This means that we don’t want the whole loaf. We only want a part of it—a slice.

Or if we ask for a glass “Of water,” you know that I don’t want the whole pitcher, just some of the water.

But in the Accusative case, it means just the opposite. It means the person wants the whole loaf and all the water in the pitcher.

So, when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” can you guess what case the word “righteousness” was in? In the Accusative!

In other words, Jesus says: “Blessed is the person who is always hungering and always thirsting to be in a right relationship with God in every area of their life.

They want to please the Lord in all their lives, not just on Sunday mornings in church or Wednesday nights in Bible class.

The word “Satisfied or filled” also has a special meaning. Originally, it was meant to fatten an animal for slaughter. But as time passed, it began to be applied to people.

And this is what the word meant when Jesus used it. In other words, if a person hungers and thirsts for righteousness in every area of their life, they will be full or satisfied in a way that only God can give.

He will satisfy your soul's longing. And so, the question remains: “How badly do you want it?”

Do you desire to be in a right relationship with God as much as a starving man wants food or as much as a man dying of thirst wants water?

If I had to translate what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 where he said: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied.”

I would say it like this: “Those who really want to do the right thing will be happy if the right thing that they want to do is what will make God happy.”

Would any of you like to do that this morning? If you do, Jesus promised that you would be blessed.

What should you do right now, today, to be made Hungrier and thirstier for righteousness?

In John 4:10, Jesus said:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks you for a drink, You would have asked him, And he would have given you living water, And whoever drinks the water that I give, will never thirst again.”

Only he can satisfy your soul.

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