What is the hungriest you have ever been? I am serious. I want you to remember a time when you were so hungry that you could not stop the hunger pains. Your stomach growled. Your body ached for food. Your yearning for food controlled your mind, controlled your body, controlled all of you. Can you remember such a time?

What is the thirstiest you have ever been? Again, I am serious. Can you remember a time when you were so thirsty that all you could think about was drinking? Your mouth was so dry that your tongue stuck when it touched anything inside your mouth. The saliva inside your mouth was non-existent. Your lips were so dry that they cracked. You were so dehydrated you could not even sweat. Can you remember such a time?

When we are genuinely hungry, genuinely thirsty, we will eat and drink at our first opportunity. Give us any choice you wish. However, if the choice is between food and water and anything else, we will choose food and water.

In the mid-eighties, I was invited to teach some Bible lessons to a military congregation in Stuttgart, Germany. When the teaching was concluded, Joyce and I bought some travel passes good inside Germany, took two backpacks, and took four days of vacation going anywhere we decided inside Germany. We would have a continental breakfast early in the morning, decide where we wanted to spend day, take a train, and go. We would not have another meal until that evening.

One day our travels (late in the day) took us within seeing distance of the Austrian border. One of Joyce's dreams has been to visit Austria. Though it was late, she wanted to cross the border just to be able to say that she was inside the country.

I was hungry. I was so hungry that I was weak. I was so hungry I was hurting. There was nowhere to buy food. Joyce still has not visited Austria!

  1. Once Jesus taught a lesson that contrasted his concepts (which are God's concepts) of righteousness with the prevailing concepts of righteousness in Jewish culture and society.
    1. He began the lesson by describing God's concept of a righteous person in Matthew 5:3-12. We commonly refer to his description as the beatitudes.
      1. In that description of a righteous person is this emphasis in verse 6:
        Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
      2. The righteous person wants to be a righteous person.
        1. He or she is not righteous because he or she is forced to be.
        2. He or she is not righteous "under protest."
        3. He or she is righteous by personal desire and commitment.
      3. He or she is hungry and thirsty to be righteous, and he or she gives nourishment to that hunger and thirst.
    2. Jesus realized that what he was to share could be (and likely would be) misunderstood by many people.
      1. The religious scholars and teachers were certain they had God's concerns all figured out--they emphasized what they were certain were God's concerns in a person being righteous.
      2. Jesus knew he would share a number of emphasis that would not agree with what was publicly emphasized.
      3. He began with two things they must understand.
        1. If they were to be God's righteous people, they had to come to an understanding of who they were.
          1. They were God's salt and light.
          2. They were to function as God's power to preserve and God's power to see.
        2. If they were to be God's righteous people, they also had to understand who he was.
          1. He knew many significant people would declare he was trying to destroy God's law.
          2. He was not there to destroy the law.
          3. He was there to be the living embodiment of what God always intended the law to produce.

  2. Then Jesus' began a lengthy series of contrasts.
    1. The first thing I challenge you to understand is this: many, many of those who heard Jesus' contrast would react by saying, "That can't be right!"
      1. For almost 100 years there had been a powerful religious force and influence in Israel to get the people to return to God's laws and God's ways.
        1. This group of people began as the Hasidim influence.
        2. Among their concerns was this one: they were certain the influences of Greek culture would destroy Judaism if those influences were not stringently opposed.
        3. One of their mottoes was, "Restore the old paths."
        4. By the time Jesus' ministry began, these people were certain that is exactly what they were doing.
      2. They were certain that Israel needed teachers who bound that return upon people, not teachers who made people think.
    2. Listen to the contrasts Jesus made to accepted practices:
      1. Jesus said: seek peace.
        1. Prevailing thought: use the court system.
        2. Jesus said using the court system produced serious consequences.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      2. Jesus said: The desire for adultery in a person's mind is the foundation of the problem of adultery (adultery was a real problem then and it is now).
        1. Prevailing thought: unless there is a physical act, there is no adultery.
        2. Jesus said if the intent is there the evil is there.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      3. Jesus said: divorce produces spiritual disaster.
        1. Prevailing thought: divorce is okay because Moses allowed divorce.
        2. Jesus said that divorce produced adultery.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      4. Jesus said: be truthful with people.
        1. Prevailing thought: it is okay to deceive people as long as you do it the right way.
        2. Jesus said deceit is deceit, and it is ridiculous to attempt to involve God in deceit.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      5. Jesus said: instead of being just, be merciful.
        1. Prevailing thought: if someone hurts you, make them suffer the consequences.
        2. Jesus said be dedicated to mercy instead of being dedicated to justice.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      6. Jesus said: pray for those who hurt you.
        1. Prevailing thought: show kindness only to people who are kind to you.
        2. Jesus said if that is all you do, you are just like everyone else.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      7. Jesus said: do godly acts because you have godly motives.
        1. Prevailing thought: if a person does godly acts it does not matter what his or her motives are.
        2. Jesus said if the motives are not godly the acts cannot please God.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      8. Jesus said: if your life's purpose is focused on material things, your life will not belong to God.
        1. Prevailing thought: things are God's blessings, and having them proves God is with you.
        2. Jesus said life's purpose is found in letting God rule you, not in pursuing material things.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      9. Jesus said: instead of judging people, help people.
        1. Prevailing thought: pick out the people who are not serving God and condemn them.
        2. Jesus said treat other people like you want to be treated.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
      10. Jesus said: be careful how you live your life; choose carefully.
        1. Prevailing thought: because of who you are and who you are related to, your position with God is secure.
        2. Jesus said the kind of influence you have on others proves who you are.
        3. A lot of people said, "That can't be right!"
    3. Jesus closed his teaching with this emphasis:
      1. It is not enough to listen to me.
      2. It is not enough to agree with me.
      3. The wise person listens to me and acts on what I say.

  3. We need to understand God's objective in our lives.
    1. God's objective is not to make life impossible.
      1. God does not want you to say, "Oh, I could never lived up to God's expectations."
      2. God does not want you to say that it is impossible for you to be a righteous person.
    2. God's objective is to help you understand what righteousness is, and to hunger and thirst for it.
      1. God does not want you to be deceived about godliness.
      2. God wants you to have full encouragement to try.
      3. His forgiveness and grace are big enough to cover you if you will hunger and thirst for righteousness.
    3. Long before Jesus was born, Isaiah told Israel that they needed to understand God's objective in their lives.
      1. What they needed to understand was simple: God specializes in recovery, not in destruction.
      2. Listen to this touching statement in Isaiah 42:1-4:
        "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."

God does not crush or extinguish people. Jesus Christ does not crush or extinguish people. People who are ruled by God do not crush or extinguish people.

While each of us surely must hunger and thirst for righteousness, each of us also must understand that God does not crush or extinguish people. In God there is responsibility, but also in God there is hope.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 February 2003

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