Written by Layton MacCabe
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” declared a man named Jesus on a mountain 2,000 years ago. Since then, those words have been treasured, recorded, translated, re-read, and highlighted over and over again. But one might rightly ask to what end this teaching has been preserved: What sort of words can remain true across barriers of language, time, and culture?
The amazing thing about Scripture is that it is not merely a passive set of writings. God speaks specifically to each generation, each culture, even each individual through each passage. So what exactly is God sharing with us, the rising generations of the 21st century, through this promise of blessing?
An interesting place to focus our contemplation in this passage is hidden specifically in the words “hunger and thirst.” Jesus pronounces this blessing over those who have an appetite for the things of God, those who value the understanding of his word like they value the consumption of their daily bread.
If you were asked to come up with similar terms that we use these days, you’d probably come up with some phrases like “consumption of media” or “money hungry,” and also highlight how “hungry and thirsty” have evolved to have a decidedly sexual connotation. It’s evident our society seeks to sate our appetite for purpose and fulfilment through pornography, wealth, success, and entertainment, among other pursuits. It never crosses our minds that righteousness might be the only place we’ll finally quench our thirst for something more and fill our lives with meaning.
A little over a year ago, I realized I was living in my own book of Ecclesiastes. Much like that book’s author, Solomon, who tried to find satisfaction in relationships, wealth, and power, I had been trying to find fulfilment in worldly endeavours. These things might not seem bad or negative (my particular struggle was my hunger for success and recognition through various pursuits, like school or my music career), but they distracted me from what Jesus promises those who seek after him.
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus reminds us in John 4:13.
For me, this realization led me to discover that thirsting and hungering for righteousness would require me to adjust my media intake. Rather than indulging in the digital gluttony I had become addicted to, I would have to plug into my Bible app or a sermon series on YouTube more and more if I really wanted to learn to seek earnestly after righteousness. It turns out righteousness is an acquired taste—the beginning of that path is a hard one.
But after enduring the seemingly bland world for a while, I made a wild discovery: with prayer and practice, you CAN learn to hunger and thirst for righteousness. It IS possible to grow to love reading your Bible just as much as you love watching your favourite show on Netflix, contrary to what many Christians will tell you! The honour and thrill of being in the presence of the Lord in worship is something we CAN be drawn towards!
The devil wants nothing more than for us to view our relationship with Jesus as a chore or a mere discipline. To a great extent, he has succeeded in our church culture in North America. The amazing truth is this: Jesus is alive, He’s our best friend, and He calls us to a life of ACTION in this world.
In your pocket right now, a device exists that has more access to the word of God, music that is glorifying to God, and opportunities to encourage other believers than anything known before in the history of the world. The great tragedy of this generation is that we’ve used it to try to satisfy our flesh, whether that’s through brainless entertainment, social popularity, or porn.
WE have to break this cycle, using our socials to God’s glory rather than our own, modifying our streaming habits to reflect our faith, and engaging with God’s Word. I’m not saying we need to cut all non-Christian entertainment from our lives, but I am saying most of us need a redistribution. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Why starve ourselves spiritually when we have a source of the bread of life within our grasp?
Pray for a hunger, a thirst, an appetite for things of God. Even though it might seem a chore to nibble on the word of God now, it can be something you long to feast on in the future. And best of all Jesus has spoken a blessing over you as you pursue it.