“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled” Matt. 5:6
It will be well to pause a moment to explain more specifically the word that gave its name to the Beatitudes, markarios. Cyprus was called he markaria, the “Happy Isle,” because it was so fertile and beautiful that everything a person could want was found within its coastline. The word represents a joy that has its secret within itself. When God says that a certain type of person is “blessed” he means that in their relationship to him they experience a deep and personal sense of peace. We have already noted that the poor in spirit, those that understand sorrow, and the meek are blessed in their relationship to God. To that group Jesus now adds those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
For most people of the ancient world, hunger was a possibility that always lay just around the corner. That being the case, we can better understand Jesus’ prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In today’s beatitude God recommends that we long for righteousness as a hungry man longs for food. To say that a person “hungers and thirsts” pictures a deep longing for that which will bring the greatest pleasure. What God desires in us is a heart aflame with passion to do what is right. Reality is structured so that only those who meet the requirement receive the satisfaction of fulfillment. Righteousness is not an ethereal concept that floats in the world of philosophical thought but a genuine desire to do what is right. It is not a theory but something we do. It is when our desire to fulfill the will of God is like that of a starving man’s desire for food that it is rewarded with complete satisfaction of soul.
Unfortunately this level of passion for what is right finds little fulfillment in today’s culture. The desire is there, but has been redirected to such tawdry things as having, seeing, and wanting. So we “long” for certain musical environments, for travel to exotic areas, for a wide assortment of things. God calls us to long for righteousness and when we do we find that even a deeper desire is being fulfilled. In my gospel harmony I put it this way: “How blessed are those who long to do what pleases God, for God will satisfy them completely.”