Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
– Jesus, Matthew 5:6
These days, righteousness is painfully one of the most misunderstood words in Christian and non-Christian cultures.
Personally, when I would hear the word “righteousness” I used to emotionally and subconsciously define it as “right-acting.” What’s so unfortunate about that is it’s the antithesis of the true meaning, and more appropriately called “self-righteousness.”
So, when I’d read about hungering and thirsting for righteousness, it sounded to me like hungering and thirsting for being a stuck up, condescending prick who never makes any mistakes. I would have never put it that way, but internally and emotionally, that’s what I believed.
Authentic righteousness is “right-standing with God.” When I first read that definition, it stopped me. I took a few minutes to really consider what this would mean to my understanding of what Jesus said and who Jesus was. Right-standing...with God.
This does not look like honoring the will of some manipulative or calculating God from a distance or adhering to a religious moral code (again, self-righteousness), but right-standing with/in the influence and presence of God. It is intimacy with God; being wholly present to One who is wholly present, in all and through all. Through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the magnificent.
It is a hunger and thirst in every one of our hearts to have this kind of intimacy with the Divine, but we often confuse it with hunger for validation, status, security, and a number of other things.
I’ve often found myself looking to Christ for the sake of my own self-improvement. I genuinely want to become a better version of myself and have seen Christ as my way to get there. But that isn’t hunger for righteousness; it is hunger for self-improvement. It misses the gracious, present, and intimate love of God coming to us as we are and where we are, regardless of who or where we “should be.” And what I'm really desiring with "self-improvement" is acceptance from God, others, and myself. It's just insecurity disguised as motivation. Directing my attention to authentic righteousness resolves this issue.
Knowing what my hunger really is, is a huge help in learning how to satisfy my hunger. When I simplify myself to a hunger and thirst for authentic and abiding righteousness, the rest takes care of itself.
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
– Jesus, Matthew 6:33