“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.”
Jesus is preaching the “Sermon on the Mount” and a huge crowd is gathering. The crowd is comprised of a mixed multitude. A mishmash of all kinds of people. For example, from Jerusalem/Judea there are the very orthodox Jews with their intense interest in the Law and in the various dietary and ceremonial laws. They are strongly passionate about all things religious.
But there are also the Galileean Jews, for whom synagogue is an important part of their life, but they aren’t religiously compulsive about it. These folks are primarily fishermen, shepherds, and farmers. They have a whole lot of things to keep them busy. And so synagogue is a very formative part of their life, but they’re not obsessive about it.
Then there is the crowd who always seemed to be around Jesus. Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes. People who had completely abandoned the religious life. They had just given up on religion. They wanted nothing more to do with it. It hadn’t worked out for them. It wasn’t cut out for them. And yet, somehow they’re attracted to Jesus too.
Interestingly, one of the places this crowd comes from (as we’re told in chapter 4) is the Decapolis. It’s an area of ten cities east of the Jordan. And it’s a Greek area settled by Alexander the Great many centuries earlier. And so the Greeks are there with their art and their philosophy and their learning. They’re in the crowd.
And then of course, there are the Roman soldiers who were ever-present as the dominating, occupying military force from the superpower of the age, the Roman Empire.
So you have the hyper-religious Jews, the moderately religious, the irreligious, the sophisticated Greeks, and the arrogant Romans with their military might. They’re all there. They represent the whole spectrum of humanity. Because the sermon that Jesus gives on the Mount is for the whole world. He is declaring the new way, the alternative way that leads to kingdom life.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
We tend to have little affinity for suffering. We wish to avoid it at all costs, wishing to stay within the safe sanctuary of our own contentment. And that is problematic. A life of contentment without suffering will almost certainly be a shallow life.
Suffering, when we allow it to do its work, broadens our capacity for compassion. “Compassion” comes from a Latin word that means “shared suffering.” If you’ve never had suffering it’s hard to share it with someone else. You don’t relate. You don’t understand.
So instead of weeping with those who weep, we want to cheer them up. Not for their sake, but for our sake. Their grief, their sorrow, their pain, their suffering makes us uncomfortable. And so we come alongside them to cheer them up, not for their sake, but because, “Come on, man. You’re bumming me out here. You’re spoiling the mood. I’m uncomfortable. I’m not used to being around people who are acting like this. Get happy for me, will you please?”
And yet, that’s not what the Scriptures teach us to do. Paul says in Romans, “Weep with those who weep.” “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” We want to rejoice with those who rejoice, and rejoice with those who weep.