…for they shall be filled.
DMLJ: In this verse we have one of the most notable statements of the Christian gospel and everything that it has to give us. Let me describe it as the great charter for every seeking soul, the outstanding declaration of the Christian gospel…
MHA: Righteousness is the quality that, according to the Sermon on the Mount, is to be the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ disciples, who constitute the Church.
DMLJ: I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones
Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, Vol.2 - The Sermon on the Mount, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev
Jesus speaks of righteousness five times in this Sermon. He speaks of it in other gospel accounts as well, for example at the Last Supper in John’s account. It is a key Biblical concept: in the Old Testament it referred primarily to following God’s commandments; to be righteous and just was a necessary condition for taking possession of the promised land.
What does it mean to hunger and thirst? Metropolitan Alfeyev offers:
In the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Psalms, the image of thirst is used to describe a person’s strong and burning desire for God, to fulfill his law and commandments.
“My soul thirsteth for God…”; “My soul has thirsted for thee”; “…my soul thirsteth after thee.”
It is to be aware of a very deep need; in physical terms, as offered by Jesus, it is the most fundamental need we have in order to sustain life. These are not passing feelings – hunger and thirst do not go away until they are satisfied. In fact, these increase without intervention. To increasingly hunger and thirst is to cause pain, even agony. It puts us in the state of desperately wanting to resolve our condition.
Lloyd-Jones points out: we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Jesus did not say we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. This would suggest that the righteousness is something we can strive for on our own. No, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is something outside of us, beyond our ability.
DMLJ: …whenever you put happiness before righteousness, you will be doomed to misery. …They alone are truly happy who are seeking to be righteous.
In other words, our highest purpose isn’t to search out happiness (blessedness) – even in the proper understand of Beatitudo: other-regarding action. If we are after happiness as the highest value, we will fall short, always. It is only by holding righteousness – to be Christ-like – as the highest value that we will find true happiness.
What does righteousness mean? It is certainly something more than honoring contracts; it is more than general respectability or general morality. In a concordance, one will find it sometimes will mean justification, but often it means even more than this – to include sanctification. In other words, it is the desire to be free from sin in all its forms; it is a desire to be right with God.
DMLJ: The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who sees that sin and rebellion have separated him from the face of God… Our first parents were made righteous in the presence of God. They dwelt and walked with Him. That is the relationship such a man desires.