Happy the Hungry Hearts

   Written by on June 22, 2017 at 9:58 am

logo-crotts-stephenBlessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

Search as you might, you will not find the word “beatitude” in the Scriptures. It is rather a word theologians assign to eight sayings of Jesus, the first eight sentences of the Sermon on the Mount. “Beatitude” means “a state of utmost bliss, the highest fulfillment.”

We each want this bliss. Witness how we strive for it materially– clothes, cars, trips, looks, job, house. Bliss comes in the next purchase! That’s the problem with materialistic bliss. As a local farmer put it, “Worldly riches are like nuts. Many a clothes torn in gathering them. Many a tooth broken in breaking them. But never a belly full in eating them.”

In their quest for bliss, others turn to the irrational– alcohol or drugs. This is a quick fix, a chemically-induced euphoria.

Then there are those who seek refuge in fantasy. Take for example the romance novel. Before the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee was an Army officer on post out west. He wrote his wife with concerns about his children’s education, giving detailed instructions. “Let him never touch a novel. They print beauty more charming than nature, and describe happiness that never exists. They will teach him to sigh after that which has no reality, to despise the little good that is granted us in this world and to expect more than is given.”

So it is in one’s quest for fulfillment, we stretch our hands out for things, for some narcotic, or even yearn through romance novels. All this, and we’re still unfulfilled.

In the beatitudes Jesus gives us the aim and the proper attitudes which bring ultimate bliss. In the first three beatitudes we are told being poor in spirit, mourning, and meekness start us off in our relationship with God. Now, in the fourth beatitude, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

What It Means

Words never exist in isolation. They have context on the printed page as well as in history. When Jesus discussed “hunger and thirst” he did so in a day when there was no corner grocery store, no faucet to twist to draw water, nor any refrigerator in which to store food. By far, the major portion of the population earned low wages, barely enough for today’s food needs. It was what we call today a “hand-to-mouth existence.” With no stockpiles of food, a famine or theft could lead quickly to starvation.

I’ve read stories of travelers by camel caravan who were trapped in a sandstorm. Unable to see, they hunkered down in the desert, wrapped themselves in their cloaks, and waited it out. Some storms lasted for days! The travelers ran out of food and water, and when the storm ended, the group crawled out of the desert, more dead than alive.

Such persons had only two things on their minds: Food! Water!

When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst,” he was not describing a genteel hunger, a mere urge to nibble, a craving for a snack. He was describing the hunger of a starving man, the thirst of a desperate man.

Thus, this fourth beatitude asks the questions, “How much do you want God? Is there an intense desperation in your appetite for Christ? Do you only nibble at Jesus or is it your only desire to gulp him all down?”

There is, furthermore, in this beatitude an oddity in the Greek grammar. The sentence doesn’t just read, “O the happy fulfillment of the man who is ravenously hungry and thirsty for righteousness.” It says more.

I may say, “I want a piece of bread and a sip of that drink.” Or I may explain, “I’m so hungry I want the whole pitcher and the entire loaf of bread!” The latter is what Jesus said in the beatitude. There is in the phraseology a sense of craving the entirety. “Blessed is the man with an overpowering hunger and thirst for all of God’s righteousness.”

Contrast such a mind-set with today’s lukewarm attitude toward God.

When Andrew Young’s daughter graduated from college she decided to live in Africa as a missionary. Her daddy hugged her good-bye and complained, “Baby, I just wanted you to have enough religion to be respectable, not enough to go to the poorest continent and be a missionary.”

If we’re honest, most of us would pray, “Dear God, I’d like to buy a $2 bag of Jesus. Just enough to be saved, but not enough to make me stand out in a crowd. Enough to go to heaven, but not enough to get really involved, if you know what I mean. I just want $2 worth. Enough to make me a Christian: loved, respected, well-treated, and comfortable. This small bag full, please, so I can keep it in my pocket and have a little taste when I please.”

Yet this fourth beatitude will have none of that! It insists on the prayer, “God, I want all of you! Now! I’m desperate! Please!”

So, how does one best translate the fourth beatitude? “O the blessedness, O the happy fulfillment of those who are ravenously hungry, who’ll just die unless they’re fed the whole of God’s righteousness. They shall be satisfied!”

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at carolinastudycenter@msn.com.

About Stephen Crotts

The Reverend Stephen Crotts is pastor of Village Presbyterian Church in Charlotte Court House, VA. He is also the director of the Carolina Study Center, Inc., a campus ministry, located in Chapel Hill, NC. Pastor Crotts may be reached at carolinastudycenter@msn.com.

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