What Is Righteousness?

Daily Devotional for Wednesday, March 17, 2021 from Jonathan Moelker

Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Luke 6:21a

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.”

This last Sunday in adult Sunday School, we continued our discussion of the beatitudes with Matthew 5:6.  One of the topics that engaged a great deal of our discussion was the definition of “righteousness”.  “Righteousness” is one of those religious words that we rarely use outside of the context of Christianity.  As we noted in class, the Greek word used here means both “righteousness” and “justice”.  That does not mean that the government “justice system” is the same as righteousness.  Instead, being righteous means pursuing what is just, what is fair and equitable.  This beatitude lays a blessing on those who are interested in righting the wrongs in the world.  It says that we should need justice like we need food, as part of our very survival.
In Luke, we see a parallel to the beatitudes, with similar blessings.  Luke places a different emphasis.  Instead of focusing on spiritual states like Matthew does, the Gospel of Luke focuses on more physical needs.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit” becomes simply “blessed are the poor.”  And in this case, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” becomes “blessed are those who are hungry now.”
The blessings in Luke remind us that God gives special care and consideration to those who are poor.  For most of us, we have been blessed to not be hungry.  However, this blessing should not make us more comfortable with our own place.  Instead, it should force us to consider those who do not have enough, those who struggle with having enough food or paying rent, those who lack adequate transportation.  When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, the first place we should look is to those who are hungering for food or thirsting for clean water.

About the Author
Jonathan is the Assistant to the Pastor at NHPC. He stumbled into New Hanover Presbyterian while he was doing his church internship for seminary and loved it from the first minute. He recently finished his Masters of Divinity at Union Presbyterian Seminary and is currently working on his Masters of Theology at that same institution. Before he discerned a call into ministry, Jonathan completed his undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Tennessee and still tries to watch whenever the Vols play. In addition to the church, Jonathan spends his time as a runner and a reader of fiction.