Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for [Righteousness]

Beatitudes, Justice, Kingdom of God, Suffering

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

Only one Greek word per blog post. That’s a strict law that cannot be violated. And the one Greek word for the day is dikaiosuné.

It is the word in the Greek language translated as both “righteousness” and “justice.” The English language is sort of an anomaly where we take “righteousness” and “justice” and we turn them into two different concepts. Two separate words. In most languages, they’re the same word.

Now, there is a problem with the word “righteousness.” It’s a great word. But the word “righteousness” can collapse into the world of personal, private spirituality. If you say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” here’s how we hear that: “Blessed are those who really, really want to be spiritual, …for they shall be really, really spiritual.”

That’s not at all what it’s saying. And the way we recover what is being said here is to use the word “justice” or, better yet, “right-ness.” “Justice” or “right-ness” sounds different in your ears than “righteousness.”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be right, for they shall be satisfied.”

Jesus is saying, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for [dikaiosuné] justice, for things to be made right in a broken world, because the kingdom that I’m bringing is going to satisfy that craving, that hunger, that ache.” Yes. That captures the essence of the 4th Beatitude.

The kingdom of God proposes a project of healing for a broken world. What do I mean by the brokenness of the world?

Let me touch on just two aspects: global poverty and modern slavery. I want to give a few facts. These statistics come from the US State department, the US Census bureau, and World Bank. Three reputable organizations.

#1. GLOBAL POVERTY.

16% of the world lives on less than $1 per day. That may not sound like a lot of people. 16% of the world’s population is 1 billion people. One billion people are trying to live on less than $1 a day.

40% of the world lives on less than $2 per day. 80% of the world lives on less than $10 per day. This is essentially subsistence level.

Americans live on $100 per day. The per capita income in America is $36,714 per man, woman, and child. Someone might say, “Well, in my household, we’re not averaging $36K a person.” Remember America has some really wealthy people, which pushes that average up. But that’s the statistic.

17,000 children die of hunger every single day. That’s not every week, every month. That’s 17,000 children every day. That’s 6 million per year – a holocaust of hunger. By the way, this isn’t everybody that dies of hunger. Adults die of hunger too. But this is children—the most vulnerable among us. Innocent ones. Children, with malnutrition, not enough to eat, starve to death every single day. About 6 million a year.

Meanwhile, the nations of the world spend $3 billion per day on defense. Defending themselves from one another. 56%, by the way, is spent by the United States. More than half of all the world’s defense budget is spent by the United States.

Here’s a child, he doesn’t have enough to eat, he’s gone weeks without having enough, the mother tried to get something, but he’s young and vulnerable, and now he’s subject to infections, because he doesn’t have enough strength in his body, not enough nourishment, and this little 2-year old child dies. That happens 17,000 times a day.

And for every one of those little children that dies of hunger, the nations of the world spend $176,000. $176,000 per child on their programs to defend themselves from one another. So while the nations of the world are spending billions every day to defend themselves from one another, the orphans are dying.

Now don’t push back, because I can read your minds, “Well, we have to…” I understand. I’m just giving you facts. At the very least you can look at it and say, “There’s something wrong with this world.” That’s all I’m asking you to do. I’m asking you to say, “I ache over the brokenness of the world.”

#2. MODERN SLAVERY.

There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. That is more slaves than were seized in Africa in the four centuries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Today, human trafficking is the world’s 3rd-largest criminal enterprise. #1, drug trafficking. #2, weapons trafficking. #3, human trafficking. The buying and selling of human beings.

80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls. Forced into the sex trade. 50% of the modern slaves are minors.

In 1850, the cost of a slave was the equivalent (in 2018 dollars) of roughly $40,000. The average cost of a modern slave is $90. Not only do we buy and sell human beings, we buy and sell them cheap.

So global poverty and modern slavery are two of the ways in which the world is broken. Now what do we do? You might say, “Are you just trying to get me to sit around and feel guilty about our privilege?” No. I’m not.

What I am saying is at the very least we should ache over the brokenness of the world. We should not pretend that everything’s fine. It’s not fine. We should at least break away from the idea that it has to be this way.

Because people who are formed by the 4th beatitude will not submit to the dictatorship of the status quo. People who are formed by the 4th beatitude will look for and work for creative solutions rather than shrug their shoulders in passive resignation.

And they don’t take the easy way out by saying, “Well, you know, when Jesus comes back everything will be fine.” Is that what Christians in America should have said in response to slavery in 1850?

“Hey, it’s not the best system, I’ll grant you that. But what’s one to do? It’s just how the world runs. And you know, when Jesus comes back, everything will be fine. But until then, this is the way it’s going to be.”

That’s what many Christians were saying in the 1850’s. Now, of course, all of us think slavery is wrong now. What you have to do though is look around in your own generation and say, “That is wrong” now…and not be the yahoo in 1850 saying, “Well, that’s just the way it has to be.”

“Well, God created the poor. The Bible says the poor you will have with you always. This is just the way things have to be. There will always be terrible things in the world. There’s nothing we can do about it except wait for Jesus to come back.”

And that’s what people do. What I am saying is, at the very least, don’t let the “Beast” have your imagination.

Ache, yearn, and refuse to submit to the idea that the status quo is okay. Dare to have faith to believe that the world can be changed. Dare to believe that the church of Jesus Christ can make disciples of the nations.

Begin praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Thy government come, thy policy be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

And then everywhere you go in your own little domain, make sure the kingdom of God is being advanced. So when you encounter the hurting, the broken, and the helpless, make sure that the kingdom of God, the good news, comes to them. And lift them up and help them in the name of Jesus.

And then we also seek to partner with the opportunities to make a difference on the big scale too. Convoy of Hope and One Child Matters are two of these organizations that my wife and I support. And I realize that’s one little thing. But that’s how the world is changed. By people doing one little thing at a time.

There’s more than a billion of us today who gather every Sunday in places all around the world, in all kinds of languages and from all kinds of traditions who declare Jesus as Lord. And if we really believe that, then we can change things.

Because Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me.”

If we can believe that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, then we can go and make disciples of the Jesus way, and we can teach people the Jesus way, and we can baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus commanded of us.

…and little by little, incrementally, in this village, that city, this nation, here and there, the world begins to change. Amen.

Blessed are those who ache and hunger for things to be made right. They will find immense satisfaction wherever the kingdom of Christ comes.

(The painting is “Famine” by Suzanne Berton)

NOTE: This post is part of a blog series on the Beatitudes. Here are the links to the previous posts:

Intro: The Constitution of the Kingdom

Beatitude #1: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Beatitude #2: Blessed are Those who Mourn

Beatitude #3: Blessed are the Meek

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