Hunger and thirst


Yeshua taught his disciples that those who hunger and thirst now are especially blessed because they will enjoy being satisfied in the Messianic Era. Does this refer to the poor and needy who literally hunger from lack of food and thirst from lack of clean water? Or does it refer to a spiritual hunger and thirst? The gospels report two different versions of the saying with two different connotations.

In Luke’s version of the sermon on the mount, Yeshua says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:21), and, “Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry” (Luke 6:25). The tradition preserved in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas agrees with Luke’s version: “Blessed are those who go hungry, for the stomach of the one in want will be filled” (Thomas 69). These sayings indicate that Yeshua had literal poverty, scarcity, and want in view. In the kingdom of heaven, roles will be reversed. Those who suffer want and need due to misfortune and social injustice in this present age will be well-fed in the Messianic Age while those who feed their own stomachs without giving thought for the needy will find themselves experiencing hunger and poverty. Then the words of Mary’s prophecy will be fulfilled: “He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed” (Luke 1:53).

On the other hand, Matthew’s version of the sermon on the mount changes the subject from those who suffer physical hunger to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. At first, this seems to have a very different meaning, but on closer examination, there is no conflict between the two versions.

In Matthew 5:6, the word “righteousness” refers to the vindication of God’s people Israel. One who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is one who yearns for the reversal of the social and moral injustices perpetrated upon the people of God. As the Jewish people groaned under Roman tyranny, they hungered and thirsted for the day that God would vindicate them and usher in His kingdom on earth. The Master assured His disciples that their yearning for God’s righteous vindication would be satiated when the Messianic Era comes.

Therefore the two versions of the saying are complementary; they do not contradict one another. When the kingdom comes, the literally hungry and thirsty will be satisfied, and that reversal of circumstance will satisfy all who have hungered and thirsted for righteousness and justice.

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, and reposted with permission.