Sitting on the Mountainside – Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 6: “Righteousness” 08.08.18

Matthew 5:6 (NIV) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

When I was an undergraduate, I had a Chevy convertible. When those little eight track tape players came out, my brother and I put one in the car. It played through the radio speakers and compared to today’s equipment, it was primitive. But at the time it was cool. I liked it and I enjoyed it.

One day, I picked up a hitchhiker at the school and he asked about it. We talked, and he seemed pleasant. I couldn’t take him all the way to his place, but I drove him as far as my apartment. He thanked me. I guess he noted where I lived. The next morning the little stereo was gone. Stolen. Nice guy. I never saw him again. The interesting part was not that I couldn’t save up and get another one. It was that a guy I had been nice to would do that! I felt…violated and sickened. It made an unusually deep impression on me. Strange way to lose your innocence about the world’s lack of righteousness. I wondered “What kind of world is this?” Of course, people who experience real injustice would call this a small thing. They’d be right. But injustice has the same flavor and cruel character whether it’s a stolen possession or a murder. There is something inside of us that just wants to shout “Wait! That is not fair! That is not RIGHT. That is not RIGHTEOUS!”

The word our Lord uses for righteousness is related to the words “justice” and “equity.” We might even say “decency.” Sorry, but we live in an indecent world. Every week, we get an add for a home security system. The light on the dashboard blinks all night. Car alarms and barking dogs suggest someone is up to wrong doing. So, we hunger and thirst for a world where everyone respects and loves his neighbor. We thirst for a society with no locks and no jails and no courts and no unrighteousness.

Jesus said: Matthew 5:6 (NIV) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Why do we live in a world filled with unrighteousness? Sin. The great Christian thinker Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. wrote a book titled “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be!” What a great title! That is our sense of the world we live in. Very beautiful and filled with wonder. But something is wrong. Something is really wrong and that something is sin. I’ve often though that “sin always begets more sin.” Plantinga writes:“Sin and the products of sin keep on replicating and bunching together like clusters of grapes on the vine. The clusters show up in individual persons but also in groups (in families for instance) and in places where groups and individuals meet.”

He goes on to speak of generalized corruption. I saw an example of this recently. I took a vehicle that we have on a lease in for an oil change. It was about a thousand miles past due. I mentioned that to the woman at the service desk. That I regretted letting that happen. She said “Well, you don’t care. Unless you buy it. You won’t be driving it much longer.” I said “Yeah…but someone will be driving it and I might as well take care of it.” She just sort of smiled and said “That’s true huh?” As if doing the right thing was not in her default moral software. She is not alone in an unrighteous world. I’m not saying I’m more righteous than she is but… Anyway, interesting how sin shows up and encourages others around us to join in and invites us to sin together.

What is the root cause of sin? Disobedience to God. In its furthest extension, disobedience to God brings death. We recall that God warned Adam as follows:
Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV) 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Adam immediately experienced spiritual death and eventually physical death. Spiritual death yielded a fear of physical death and many other things. But not a fear of God. We must understand the FEAR OF GOD PROPERLY. It does not primarily fear of punishment. God is not a hateful and furious being who can’t wait to step on sinners. Sure, God can be angry and punitive. But the fear of God means respect and deference to God. To honor Him with the way we live. To care about what He cares about. To revere Him in all that we do. To fear God is to love God. An absence of that fear is the first sign of a lost soul. Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and philosopher who came to Christ. In his great book “Pensees” he said this: “If you fear, then have no fear. If you have no fear, then fear!”

When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we want to be among people who also long for the Kingdom of God. To be with people who don’t care about righteousness creates great anxiety in us Christians. When Abraham went to Gerar, he lied about his beautiful wife, saying she was his sister. The king of that region, Abimelech, was furious. He demanded to know why he had lied. Abraham responded by saying:
Genesis 20: 11 “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’”

Here’s the great news: we who hunger and thirst for righteousness will eventually live in a place where the fear of God is evident everywhere!

Peace. Pastor Alberta

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