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Blessed are the Hungry

I am sitting at my sister’s home in New Zealand, trying to write with her yellow Labrador, Maggie, lying beside me. I have patted her, whispered sweet nothings to her, and now want to focus on my pen. Her paw pulls on my arm; her tongue washes my hand.  I give her my attention, stroke her some more, and then tell her I need to write. She gazes at me longingly, and then out comes the paw to nudge me again!

Did you ever out last a dog that wanted attention? I know I have tried with my own dog! Their desire/need for attention and affection at times seems insatiable.


I think of this as I continue to ponder Jesus’ words in the fourth beatitude:

              Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,                                     for they shall be satisfied.

The Bible Project folk, whose insights into the Sermon on the Mount have been invaluable to us, interpret this hunger and thirst as lack. I have been wondering if another perspective is to consider hunger and thirst as being instinctual, God-given needs for survival. How long can anyone live without water or without food? What if “righteousness” is another instinctual “need”?

Let’s pause to consider what “righteousness” means. I suspect we have tended to focus more on being “right” as in “having the right beliefs”, which then infers that anyone who has different beliefs or sees things differently is “wrong”.  What if righteousness is more about focusing on our relationships with one another, about doing right by others, about justice, compassion, and caring? When we consider Jesus’ life as revealed through the gospels, He is always focused on the needs of the “other”—how to do right by them, meeting their needs, healing, forgiving sins, teaching them different ways to live. And His command to us, along with loving God with all our being, is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Circling back to hunger and thirst, what if we acknowledge “righteousness” as meeting a basic need? Think of how a baby learns through gazing up at her mother’s eyes and reflecting the love that she sees there. Think of babies raised in situations where they have lacked this initial loving bond. Alongside the need for food and water is this basic need for loving interaction for a baby to grow up into a healthy adult.

We have seen too many examples through recent years of the destruction that follows when a person feels isolated and unloved and then reaches out in anger to destroy others.

Hunger and thirst for righteousness are thus not an optional “add-on”, something we can choose to do or not. Being in right relationship is a necessary to our health as the air we breath and the food we eat.

Jesus Himself told us: “Is not life more than food…?” (Matthew 6:25)

And the promise, as we reach out in love and compassion to those around us, is that we will be satisfied: this deep need in us for significance and belonging will be met.

Maggie, satisfied with my attention, has moved away to lie peacefully on the floor, her need for the moment met. And I gaze peacefully at her, feeling that sense of wellbeing that comes from putting on hold my own agenda to meet another’s need.

Reflection & Practice: 

  • In what ways are you aware that your need for affection, attention and caring is inviting you into deeper relationships with others? Are there times when you feel tempted to pull away in case you appear too “needy”? Does acknowledging this as a God-given need help you to reach out, both to give and to receive the life-giving friendships that are so vital to us all?

  • Is there an invitation here from God to you towards specific people in your life? Listen well to their words.  Ask the Spirit for wisdom to know how to bless.

  • Enjoy the satisfaction that comes as God’s reward for your response to this invitation.

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