Jesus said in his famous sermon on the mount: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mtt. 5:6). Thus, we are often told in Christian meetings that we are to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. This sounds spiritual and good, but do born-again Christians who have Jesus on the inside really need to hunger and thirst?
Not considering the context in which Jesus said these words, it certainly seems like Jesus encourages us to hunger and thirst for righteousness today. But who did Jesus address in the sermon on the mount? He was talking to the Jews, who strived to become righteous through their own efforts by keeping the law, before He had died on the cross and resurrected from the dead.
In John chapter 4, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman by the well: ”Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14).
We here see that the one who drinks the water from Jesus will never have to thirst again. Doesn’t this contradict that we should “hunger and thirst for righteousness” today?
In John chapter 7, also now speaking to the Jewish people before his death and resurrection, Jesus said:
37 “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Jn. 7:37-39)
We see that the water that Jesus talked about, and gives us to drink from, is a picture of the Holy Spirit, whom we receive when we believe in Jesus. We also see clearly that the promise of the Spirit could only be fulfilled after Jesus had been “glorified”, that is, after He had died, resurrected and ascended to heaven. Before the cross, the Holy Spirit was not yet poured out on the earth. This happened first on the day of Pentecost, after the cross.
We who are Christians today live after the cross and can therefore freely drink from the Holy Spirit’s water. This was not possible for the Jews in the days of the sermon on the mount (as the Holy Spirit had not yet been given). In other words: If we believe in Jesus and have the Holy Spirit on the inside, we never need to thirst again!
After the cross, in 1 Cor. 1:30, Paul says: ”But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Do you see that Jesus has been made righteousness for you and me? How did this happen? Through Jesus’ death and resurrection! When we receive Jesus in our lives we receive His own righteousness. Why hunger and thirst for any other righteousness than Jesus Himself, who is our righteousness? I surely do not want any other righteousness than the person of Jesus! The bible teaches us that our own righteousness, based on our own so called “good” works is like a “filthy rag” (Is. 64:6). Why would I want to dress in a filthy rag, when I have received the perfectly white cloth of righteousness from Jesus?
Are we to hunger and thirst for righteousness today? If you don’t have Jesus on the inside there might be a point to this, but it is much better to simply receive Jesus instead. Come to Him and He will fill you up so that you never need to hunger or thirst again!
But for us how are born-again Christians it is actually unbelief to hunger and thirst for something we already have. It goes against the finished work of Jesus. Jesus is our righteousness. If we have Him we are righteous. If we drink from His living water we will never ever have to hunger or thirst again.
Instead of chasing after, seeking for, or hunger and thirst for righteousness, let us rest in Jesus Christ and always connect with Him, He who is our righteousness.