We live in a land of plenty. Fresh, clean running water is available at the tap. Grocery stores and restaurants abound. We hunger and thirst, but our needs are fulfilled so frequently and so easily, we forget how intense these longings can be. Such was not the case for the world in which Jesus spoke these words:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6 ESV
People lived a subsistence life, and travel could expose you to the dangers of thirst.
Kenneth Bailey tells the story of a trip to Bir Shaytoun in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. This famous well was located deep in the desert of southern Egypt so his expedition had to travel by camel. The temperature for the journey was 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Unfortunately, there was no shade. To make matters worse, a water bag made of goat-skin leaked all of its contents. They ran out of water.
For a day and half they pressed on to Bir Shaytoun with the guide reassuring them that the well never ran dry. Bailey was concerned that the armed guards traveling with them might commandeer the camels and leave the travelers stranded in the desert and left to die. If there was no water in the well, they would die of thirst. His mouth became so dry that it was impossible to eat. Swallowing felt like rubbing two pieces of sandpaper together. His vision became blurred. It was arduous to keep moving. He writes:
As I staggered on, my mind turned to this verse and I knew that I had never sought righteousness with the same single-minded passion that I now gave to the quest for water.
Listening to his story makes vivid the longing that living in a world of plenty may dull.
Righteousness is doing what God requires. It is upright and moral living. I long to be pure of heart, and yet I deeply sense that I have not yet arrived. Bailey comments:
The statement presupposes that righteousness is something the faithful continuously strive after. The blessed are not those who arrive but those who continue, at whatever cost, in their pilgrimage toward a more perfect righteousness.
Let us hunger and thirst after righteousness because the God of mercy and love will satisfy.