For untold years, hunger and starvation have been a chronic problem for many people in various countries. In 436 B. C., famine came to Rome, and thousands of people threw themselves into the Tiber River to end their suffering. In 1005, famine struck England. In 879, 1016, and 1162, all of Europe suffered from famine. Even in our century with all of its technological advances, hunger still stalks our world.
Yet this hunger and thirst pales in comparison with a more serious hunger and thirst everyone has whether or not they recognize it. When we are willing to put aside our selfish pursuits, sins, and self-centered power, we will naturally have a hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ.
There are many wrong things we can hunger and thirst after—praise from others, power, selfish pleasure, immoral pleasures—but unless we hunger and thirst after the things of God we cannot truly be happy. Such enduring happiness comes only when we are clothed in his righteousness.
The True Meaning of Hunger
The hunger and thirst Jesus speaks of is an intense hunger and thirst most of us have probably never experienced. It is the kind of hunger and thirst such as those in famine lands experience. Not only is the hunger and thirst to be intense, but it is also to be a continual longing and seeking for our lives to be holy like Christ’s. If we are truly his children, we will have this intense desire. In addition, we will earnestly do whatever it takes to make his holiness a part of our life.
We can have a weak desire for righteousness. We often get mixed up in the things of the world, and we know to hunger and thirst for Jesus’ righteousness would mean we would have to change our plans, priorities, or lifestyle. Jesus expects his children to have a strong desire or passion to live as he commands.
Think of the person addicted to drugs or alcohol. If those substances are taken away, they will have a strong desire to satisfy the craving their bodies are experiencing. Some kill and others steal to satisfy this hunger and thirst. Our hunger and thirst for the things of God should be of that magnitude—that we would even need help if we were deprived of the things of God.
This kind of ambition stands in sharp contrast to the messages we often hear or have taught to us. We are taught to be ambitious for popularity, notoriety, or success. Jesus tells us to be ambitious for righteous living. This will bring happiness to the child of God.
Think of Moses who talked with God face to face. He observed all the miraculous things God did in Egypt and on the way to the Promised Land. Even though he had experienced all that, he still desired to know more about the righteousness of God.
The apostle Paul was also a man in whose life God worked in marvelous ways. His life is an example for us, but even after experiencing all he did in his relationship with God he still desired to be clothed with more of the righteousness of Christ.
The key to spiritual thirst is never to be satisfied with our walk with Christ and never to be satisfied with the lifestyle we live. We need to have more passion to draw closer to God every day. There is always room for improvement.
One wrote; “To be hungry is not enough; I must really be starving to know what is God’s heart toward me. When the prodigal son was hungry, he went to feed on the husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his Father.”
The Need for Spiritual Hunger
The righteousness we must hunger for is vital to our spiritual life just as food and water are to the physical life. Food and water are absolutely necessary if our bodies are to exist. They keep the body parts functioning properly.
Just as those in famine lands starve for food and water, so those who have never experienced the righteousness of God are starving in a spiritual sense. Tragically, they often turn to other things to satisfy that hunger, such as alcohol, drugs, immorality, pornography, murder, theft, and a host of other perversions in an attempt to fill their God vacuum.
The wicked may not always appear to be hurting or starving for spiritual things. God allows the wicked to be blessed simply because they live in a world created by him and inhabited by his people. They get some fringe benefits because of Christians. They receive blessings because we do. They enjoy possessions, good health, and freedom just as we do. They have freedom of religion, opportunities for advancement and success, knowledge, and other things just like God’s people do.
These blessings are evidence of God’s common grace. Some of the greatest minds of history do not and have not believed in God, yet many of them take these blessings and use them selfishly. Instead of recognizing God as the giver of these gifts, they use them for their own selfish glory.
As a child of God, we are admonished not to love the world or the things of it. We must hunger for spiritual things and for the righteousness of Christ. We must use his blessings in a way that honors him and gives him glory. The Bible says, “For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:16).
So necessary is this hunger that it proves the sincerity of our profession. If an individual is striving to be what God wants them to be, if they have a driving passion to be pleasing to him like the passion those have who live in famine-stricken lands, then we can be assured they are a child of God. This hunger is a necessity for the Christian, not an option. Along with this hunger comes the understanding that we do not have the power to live the Christian life, but must allow God to live it through us. Still yet, the passion is present.
The Goals of Spiritual Hunger and Thirst
The first goal is salvation. When a person realizes their position and destiny apart from God, they will turn to him for salvation. The result will be happiness as they find forgiveness from their sins. As long as a person trusts in their own righteousness, they will never turn to God for his.
The second goal is sanctification. We must continually grow in our walk with the Lord while at the same time realizing we will never receive all the righteousness we need until we are at home in heaven. Being declared righteous by God does not mean we are completely righteous in our actions and attitudes and have no room for improvement.
The Results of Spiritual Hunger and Thirst
The result will be satisfaction. When we hunger and thirst for justice, we will receive it in full. The word is not speaking of partial satisfaction, but total satisfaction. It is the idea of a pig that has eaten until he is totally satisfied.
Again this is somewhat of a paradox. Though we will be satisfied, we must continue to hunger and thirst for more of Christ’s righteousness. It is somewhat like eating steak or some other food we dearly enjoy. When we have eaten a juicy piece of steak, we are for the moment satisfied, but this does not mean that we will never desire steak again.