Matthew 5:6 - Blessed are they that hunger and thirst and righteousness

Matthew 5:6 - Blessed are they that hunger and thirst and righteousness

Sermon on the Mount 


  • Keep in mind, during the Sermon on the Mount, particularly, the beatitudes Jesus is constructing His disciple from the inside out.  Inside out means having the inner surface (the heart) turned outward so that everyone could see.  This was a radical form of teaching during the time of Jesus.  The Jewish religious system was an outward form of religion. Their focus was not the heart but actions; therefore, if you did the actions, you were righteous before God. Is it any wonder why Jesus said “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28). 

      The point of this sermon is if our actions betray our heart then we are just as guilty as if we committed the act.  

Several years ago, while I was youth pastoring, we had a sinful situation take place with a couple of our youths.  I remember counseling the parents and youths involved about the situation.  One of the parents focused on the outward by saying, my child is no longer doing this sin – he or she has repented.  This was the Jewish way of thinking.  My heart was broken.  Here was a parent who loved the Lord, faithful to God’s House, involved in ministry, etc. and did not understand the chief corner stone of repentance. Repentance is a change of heart that transforms the outward.  The teens said nothing that evenly remotely suggest there was a change of heart. Jesus makes the heart of the disciple front and center throughout this sermon and in the beatitudes.    

This is where we are with this sermon.  Where is our heart?  Please God help us to be honest with ourselves so that we can do a heart inventory. 


The object is not blessedness, joy, rejoicing, or the highest form of happiness that qualitative and quantitative is superior to man’s form of happiness.  Blessedness is the joy that overwhelms a believer who hungers and thirsts after righteousness.  Our world is in such a mess today because we spend so much time, effort, and money on happiness; yet, never truly experiencing real and meaningful joy.  The reason our world is such an unhappy, joyless and angry place is the object of their pursuit is happiness; instead of hungering and thirsting after righteousness.  They desire the effect, without caring about the process.  

The world, it is obvious, has fallen into a primary and fundamental error…Think of a man who is suffering from some painful disease.  Generally the one desire of such a patient is to be relived of his pain, and one can understand that very well.  No one likes suffering pain.  The one idea of this patient, therefore, is to do anything which will relieve him of it; but if the doctor who is attending this patient is also only concerned about relieving this man’s pain he is a very bad doctor.  His primary duty is to discover the cause of the pain and to treat that.  Pain is a wonderful symptom which is provided by nature to call attention to disease, and the ultimate treatment for pain is to treat the disease, not the pain....Now that is the folly of which the world is guilty.  It says, “I want to get rid of my pain.”  But the question is, what is the cause of the pain, and the unhappiness, and the wretchedness?  They are not happy who hunger and thirst after happiness and blessedness. No.  “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness.” MLJ  

The story is told of James Guthrie, a Christian who went to the scaffold for his faith in Jesus Christ.  Waking at 4 A. M. on the day of his execution, James spent time in personal worship, and was asked by his friend James Cowie how he felt.  “Very well,” replied James.  “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  The reason James could have joy on the morning of his execution was his pursuit was not joy but the Lord.  For the Christian, the object of our pursuit is not happiness or blessedness but poor in spirit, mourning over sin, meekness, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness.  How do these actions produce blessedness?  

Thomas Watson said: 

A duty implied: 'Blessed are those who hunger'. Spiritual hunger is a blessed hunger. What is meant by hunger? Hunger is put for desire (Isaiah 26:9). Spiritual hunger is the rational appetite whereby the soul pants after that which it apprehends most suitable and proportional to itself. Whence is this hunger? Hunger is from the sense of lack. He who spiritually hungers, has a real sense of his own indigence. He lacks righteousness. (Beatitudes)

You are blessed if you hunger and thirst for righteousness because the only way you can hunger and thirst after righteousness is if the Lord has done a work of grace in your hearts.  There is not any natural aspect to hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This is a supernatural event.   

Let us consider some points about this object:

Our Appetite 

The appetite of the person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness comes from his or her taste of the God being gracious.

In 1 Peter 2, Peter tells the scattered Christians to:

1 Peter 2:2–3KJV 1900

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Their desire for the sincere milk of God’s word corresponds with then tasting the Lord to be gracious.  In the same fashion, The reason we hunger and thirst after righteousness because we have tasted the Lord to be gracious.  

When a man is hungry the only thing that will satisfy him is food. He has no interest in other things. You can show him diamonds and jewels, houses and land, but if he is starving his only desire is for food. He realizes that all those other things that people value so highly are meaningless in comparison to satisfying his hunger. 

This is the power behind the words “hunger” and “thirst.”  Nothing will satisfy the person other than the righteousness of God.  The words “hunger” and “thirst” are active voice and present tense.  This means there will always be a continual hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We will constantly feel the pangs of having a lack of righteousness.  We can never get to the place, on this side of eternity, where we can be completely satisfied with our righteousness.  There should always be this continual hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  

This means we must have a craving for righteousness.  

Having a craving for righteousness is dependent upon our view of us and God.  

  • Viewing ourselves- It does not seem that Paul ever forgot who he was.  Outside of grace, he was a wretched man, with a sin nature of death.  Why did he constantly stay hungry for God?  He never lost view of himself.  

Romans 7:24KJV 1900

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Ephesians 2:3–4KJV 1900

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Imagine how different David’s life would have ended up, if he did not lose sight of who he was outside of God’s favor?  David confessed his sinful view of himself after Nathan the prophet exposed his sin.  

Psalm 51:1–10KJV 1900

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness:
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions:
And my sin isever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
And done thisevil in thy sight:
That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest,
Andbe clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity;
And in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:
And in the hidden partthou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness;
Thatthe bones whichthou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins,
And blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.

  • Viewing God -  Understanding who we are is not enough to crave for righteousness.  Everyone is craving for something but with most people their craving is not after righteousness.  The reason in every case is an improper view of God.  The passage below applies to everyone who is lost.  

Romans 1:18–23KJV 1900

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed itunto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, evenhis eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified himnot as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

To suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, people must change who God is.  If we are to crave after righteousness then we must have the right view of God.  

Romans 1:16–17KJV 1900

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

What view must we have of God?  Is it His holiness or wrath?  Paul says our view of God should be the Gospel of Christ.  Seeing God in the Gospel!  There is nothing more humbling and loving then knowing God gave us His all so that worthless, rebellious, wicked and ungodly sinners can have a relationship with a holy God.  


Christians are imputed with the righteousness of God.  That is, God covers their unrighteousness with His righteousness.  This means God sees us through His own righteousness.  This is known as positional righteousness.  In this God no longer sees us outside of His righteousness. Praise God!  

Romans 4:22–25KJV 1900

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

However, this is not object that Jesus had in mind.  The person who is poor in spirit has this positional righteousness.  The kind of righteousness that Jesus has in mind is sanctifying righteousness.  Sanctifying righteousness is the ongoing and progressive work in our lives to be righteous.  What does this mean?

  • Having a desire to be free from sin
  • Having a desire to be right with God
  • Having the desire to be free from the power of sin
  • Having a desire to be free from the desire of sin 

Blessed because in the presence of this hunger many meaner hungers die out. One master passion, like Aaron's rod, swallows up all the rest. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and therefore he is done with the craving of lust, the greed of avarice, the passion of hate, and pining of ambition

Pining to be holy, longing to serve God, anxious to spread every righteous principle,-blessed are they. CHS


The opportunity that hungering and thirsting after righteousness provides. 

This is not an overstatement to say that the answer to all of man’s problems is this verse.  

Real time stats in America:

Abortion - 614,756 

Suicide - 24,080

Tobacco - 197,036 

Alcohol - 56,296 

Drunk Driving - 19,033 

All Drug Abuse - 14,077

Homicide- 9,457 

Domestic Violence - 822

If Americans were hungering and thirsting after righteousness, these statistics would not exist.  

The opening paragraphs of an article written by USA Today Newspaper, entitled: Broken hearts: A rundown of the divorce capital of every state

One of the more sobering realities of 21st-century American life is divorce.

Marriages end over a host of issues, including infidelity, stress, money troubles, and personal changes by one or both partners over the course of a marriage. Divorce can be an emotionally wrenching experience and can fracture families. For many children, divorce leaves scars that never heal.

About 40% to 50% of married couples in the United States divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. The divorce rate among those who remarry is even higher.

There are over 800.000 divorces every year in America.  800.000 families in brokenness.  This number would not exist if we hungered and thirst after righteousness.  

Imagine the global impact of hungering and thirsting after righteousness:

  • No AIDS epidemic in Africa
  • No Tariff wars
  • No nuclear fears
  • No terrorism
  • Immigration would be extinct.  
  • No need for Interpol
  • 1.6 trillion dollars spent on military

The fix for society is not more money, military, U. N., etc....rather, it is hungering and thirsting after righteousness.  


  • Future: The outcome is, one day we will be filled.  The word “filled” means “to provide more than enough to be satisfied.” This is the day I long for; when I will be just like my Savior - completely righteous and without sin.  
  • Determines if we are a disciple: It is important to note that this day comes for those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness.  These beatitudes are a litmus test, determining if we are His disciples.  This does not mean we are saved by our works; just the opposite is true.  These beatitudes are not a work of the flesh but of grace.  A person cannot be poor in spirit without grace intervening in their life.  Flowing from this poor in spirit - mourning over sin, meekness, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness are all works of prevailing grace.  Spiritual “hunger is a pain.  It is God’s merciful provision, a divinely sent stimulus to propel us in the direction” righteousness.  Therefore, the beatitudes are a litmus test determine whether or not we have be impacted by grace.  There are many people who claim to be a follower of Jesus or a Christian; yet, they do not desire righteousness because they have no taste for it.  This passage should help them to see that they are lost. 
  1. Unless we hunger after righteousness we cannot obtain it.
  2. If we do not thirst here we shall thirst when it is too late.


  • Isaac Watts wrote a hymn to the beatitudes:

I Hunger and Thirst

Blest are the humble souls that see 

Their emptiness and poverty; 

Treasures of grace to them are giv’n, 

And crowns of joy laid up in Heav’n. 

Blest are the men of broken heart, 

Who mourn for sin with inward smart; 

The blood of Christ divinely flows, 

A healing balm for all their woes. 

Blest are the meek, who stand afar 

From rage and passion, noise and war; 

God will secure their happy state, 

And plead their cause against the great. 

Blest are the souls that thirst for grace 

Hunger and long for righteousness; 

They shall be well supplied, and fed 

With living streams and living bread. 

Blest are the men whose bowels move 

And melt with sympathy and love; 

From Christ the Lord they shall obtain 

Like sympathy and love again. 

Blest are the pure, whose hearts are clean 

From the defiling powers of sin; 

With endless pleasure they shall see 

A God of spotless purity. 

Blest are the men of peaceful life, 

Who quench the coals of growing strife; 

They shall be called the heirs of bliss, 

The sons of God, the God of peace. 

Blest are the suff’rers who partake 

Of pain and shame for Jesus’ sake; 

Their souls shall triumph in the Lord; 

Glory and joy are their reward.

  • Final Thought 

A devoted follower of Socrates asked him the best way to acquire knowledge. Socrates responded by leading him to a river and plunging him beneath the surface. The man struggled to free himself, but Socrates kept his head submerged. Finally, after much effort, the man was able to break loose and emerge from the water. Socrates then asked, “When you thought you were drowning, what one thing did you want most of all?” Still gasping for breath, the man exclaimed, “I wanted air!” The philosopher wisely commented, “When you want knowledge as much as you wanted air, then you will get it!” The same is true with our desire for righteousness. (Our Daily Bread)