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Despite What We Think, We Are Not Righteous

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


We are currently in the middle of a study in the Beatitudes, a list of eight characteristics of a true disciple of Jesus. Jesus gave this teaching as part of a broader teaching called the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by Matthew.

Previously we learned that a true disciple of Christ recognizes his sin and repents over it. He also has been “tamed” in that he exhibits strength of character. Today we learn that he also has a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say blessed are the righteous. We are all sinners [Romans 3:10; 1 John 1:18]. No human being is righteous, although we may think we are. Anyone who believes in their own righteousness will not seek righteousness. We don’t look for something we already think we have. It is only when a person realizes that they are a sinner (Beatitude #1) and repent over that fact (Beatitude #2) that they will seek righteousness outside of themselves.

In the original Greek language this verse is very intense. It does not portray a mild hunger or a slightly dry mouth. Instead it describes a person near death for lack of food and water. As an analogy Jesus tells us that a true disciple of His doesn’t consider righteousness to be a mid-afternoon snack or a refreshing drink. Rather, righteousness is a basic necessity for life.

In this sense Jesus is referring to eternal life that only He can offer. Jesus uses a definite article (“the”) in the original Greek when referring to “righteousness”. Jesus, who was God in human flesh, offers up His righteousness to those who belong to Him. Jesus offers us life – eternal life – via His own righteousness.

But I think there is another sense in which Jesus offers righteousness and that pertains to our time on earth. When we live apart from Him our world is a mess. Certainly we see that everyday. We have so many problems that only seem to multiply. Despite many attempts from many leaders who claim to be able to create it, we’ve failed at creating a righteous planet. Instead we only create a more sinful one. This leaves people more dissatisfied as time goes on.

It is dissatisfaction with self and the world in general that leads people to really hunger for righteousness. However, those who find their righteousness in Christ will be satisfied, both temporally and eternally.

Sadly, the world does not operate this way. We think we are basically good and seek to create a better world through political and social leaders who have no righteousness within themselves either, despite their claims. As a result the world is moving in the complete opposite direction from what Jesus offers. He offers us satisfaction in this life and the next. But that satisfaction can only be found in Him.

Tragically, the world rejects this idea and continues to attempt to manufacture a better world through the effort of sinful human beings. That will never work.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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