The fourth beatitude involves those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. I thought this one was pretty straightforward until I started thinking about definitions. Jesus isn’t just saying that this is a good thing. He clearly identifies a desire for righteousness as a vital need for our survival. How does he do that? By the imagery he uses to describe it. He doesn’t use words like seek or want. He uses the words hunger and thirst, words that identify the two most basic needs for physical survival—food and water. What does this comparison mean? It seems to me that Jesus is saying righteousness is a basic survival need as well for he is praising the fervent pursuit of it, a desperation for it.
That leads to another question. What is righteousness? The definitions I explored all boiled down to either “following divine law” or “free from guilt and sin” which, in a practical sense, come down to the same thing really, something the Bible says no human is capable of doing: being perfect and blameless. So, why is Jesus presenting us with an impossible task? Simple. It isn’t impossible for God. The only source of righteousness is God Himself. To truly pursue it is to pursue God. To hunger and thirst for it is to hunger and thirst for God. In doing so we desperately seek to become who God alone can make us, to become who God always intended us to be. Can we ever be righteous in our own right? Of course not. But, we don’t have to be. The only righteousness that matters is that which Christ granted us through his death and resurrection. Jesus is not extolling the obtainment of righteousness, only the hunger and thirst for it, that desperate hunger and thirst for the presence of God. The best part of this beatitude is that it guarantees our success. Our hunger and thirst will be satisfied.