The Biology of Righteousness

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

bee drinking nectar from fruit blossomWhen I’m hungry or thirsty, I usually don’t think of righteousness as something that would satisfy. A cup of coffee and a burrito, maybe! And, what is righteousness, anyway?! As you can see, I’ve been stumped by Jesus’ saying here. The more I thought about it, the more questions I had.
   • What is righteousness?
   • What does it mean to be filled or satisfied?
   • Why does Jesus use biological terms for a
seemingly spiritual activity?

These questions, and more, led me to some surprising conclusions. At least I didn’t see them coming!

The biggest hurdle for me was the aspect of righteousness and how it can be fulfilling. The most common definition I’ve heard in church is “the state of being in proper relationship with God.” This is a fine definition, but it didn’t seem to mesh for me with the idea of hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are earthy terms. This definition of righteousness spiritual, positional, and abstract. I felt like I needed a definition of righteousness that had feet to it. Then this passage came to mind.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8, NKJV)

To be righteous is to do rightly with a view to justice, mercy, and humility. Logically speaking, it just feels good when we do good. It is satisfying feeling we get when we have just helped someone.

What does Jesus mean when he blesses those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness?” When we are hungry, we usually know what we want to eat. We can see it. We know what it tastes like. It’s something that lives inside of us before we even get a chance to do it. We see rightly before we do rightly. We know what it looks like, and we want to see it happen. Seeing the kingdom of God lived out in our world only happens when we see it lived out in us. To quote Josh Pinkston, quoting Jesus, “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

So in wrapping my brain around Jesus’ words here I find that the satisfaction of righteousness is not static, but dynamic. It is alive like our appetites. The more we do rightly the more we are hungry to do it again. This doing comes from seeing what the world could look like when we all do rightly, justly, and filled with mercy and humility. I hope you can see it, just as I long to see it!

Grace and peace,
Brook

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