You might not know it to look at me now, but there was a time in my life when I went hungry for a while. It was my second year in college and I had run out of money. Without money one cannot buy food. About the second or third day of my forced fast I tried to make tomato soup out of several of those little ketchup packets that you get at fast food restaurants. I added some spices in hopes of making it into something palatable. In case you are wondering, it tasted nothing like soup, just watered down ketchup. I didn’t enjoy it, but I ate all of it. When my next paycheck came I could barely wait to get to Piggly Wiggly and buy food. Real food. That was the last time that I was really hungry.
Have you ever been really hungry? Some people are. These people don’t know when their next meal will be. What a terrible, desperate feeling that must be. I knew that all I had to do was wait for my paycheck and I would have food, but that’s not true for some folks.
Jesus once said that actually it’s great to be hungry all the time. In fact, it makes you happy. But listen to the “hunger” he’s talking about: “Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The only hunger that makes someone happy is the hunger for righteousness.
Jesus used the word “righteousness” to talk about two related blessings for His followers. First of all, righteousness is being declared not guilty by God. It’s an acquittal. Righteousness means that God the Judge looks at you and declares you not guilty of all your sins because Jesus covers you in His holiness. Jesus’ holiness becomes your holiness in God’s sight. That’s righteousness and it’s a gift that is received by faith. Flowing from this gift is another one. When you know God has forgiven your sins, you want to do things God’s way. This, too, is righteousness. Jesus says that when you long for God’s not guilty verdict, you will also long for ways to say “thank you” with your life. You will hunger for righteousness. There’s lots of spiritual junk food out there, and it may seem like your soul’s hunger will be satisfied by it. What about the idea that if you’re pretty good or just try a little harder or are better than the next guy, then God will have to accept you? That’s not real righteousness. It’s self-righteousness, and it’s a spiritual starvation that can never satisfy your spiritual needs.
Instead be hungry for Jesus’ righteousness. Yearn for the forgiveness only He can supply and receive it by faith in him. Each week we receive food for our souls in the Divine Service. This food is the Word of God preached into our ears proclaiming that our sins, which are real and damnable, are fully and freely forgiven by God for Christ’s sake. We also receive this food in a real and tangible way as we gather at the Lord’s altar to receive the very body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
Don’t let summer be a time when you and your family spiritually fast. Yes, hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness but then come and be satisfied.
~ Pastor Christensen