"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6).
Jesus was surely speaking to hungry and thirsty people. Crowds, like sheep, eat and drink all the time. But it was not hunger or thirst that Jesus spoke of. The object of the desire here is critical. Jesus was adding his blessing upon those who desire righteousness, those who want to uphold biblical moral principles.
People have no moral principles of their own. Apart from Christ, apart from the Shepherd, people will drain their resources and tear each other apart. Apart from Christ people are self-righteous, proud, irritable and afraid (fearful). Apart from Christ people know at some level that they are destined for death and Hell (Romans 1:20). People will stubbornly cling to their old habits of selfishness and godlessness. Nothing but their own death and rebirth in Christ can change them. The is the point of the Old Testament-nothing but Christ can change people.
Education only makes us smarter sheep, but has no effect on our stubbornness, or our blindness to the things of God. Educated people are only better able to justify their old habits. An educated Christian is a blessing; an educated heathen is not, it does not change their essential character.
Wealth only makes us richer sheep, but has no effect on our stubbornness or our blindness to the things of God. Wealthy people are only better able to fund their old habits, not change them. A wealthy Christian is a blessing; a wealthy heathen is not.
Health only keeps us from getting sick. Being healthy means being able to be what you are. So, a healthy sheep is better able to be a sheep than a sick sheep. Healthy sheep are better able to do sheeply things, but it doesn't make them other than sheep. Health doesn't change our character or habits, it just allows us to better engage them.
Education, wealth and health are all offered as the panacea for a better world. And all of these things are good, but none of them are able to change our godless habits, our selfish desires or our godlessness. Apart from Christ, apart from Scripture, people would have no idea about real goodness or godliness. Godliness is not our natural condition. We cannot become better people or more godly by looking within. The human heart is a cesspool of sin and corruption. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
A lot of people-too many-think that human beings are naturally good, and that we are corrupted by the world. But that is backwards. Scripture teaches that people are naturally sinful, naturally evil-depraved, and that our sinfulness and depravity corrupts the world. Of course, God created everything good. But people ignore and disregard the fall.
Adam fell and sin has been our natural condition ever since. The fix for the corruption of the world is not political action. That's not the first step, anyway. The first step is confession of our sin, acknowledgment that we are the problem, that we are so lost that we are not worth saving. This is the meaning of being poor in spirit.
Only when we see the depth of our own personal depravity can we contemplate the degree of our own wickedness. When we grasp our iniquity, added together with (or maybe multiplied by) all of the wickedness of other people and the wickedness of human history, can we own the hopelessness of looking within ourselves. Whether we look into our own individual hearts or look to the great literature of human history, we see the same thing-unrepentant wickedness.
While no one likes seeing this about ourselves, seeing it, owning it, is a necessary part of our salvation. Those who turn away, those who ignore the gravitas of human iniquity, of their own depravity, deny the truth of God, which is the only thing that can save them. That truth is the man Jesus Christ, and there is no other. That's the way God designed it. That's the way God designed us. So, to reject the reality of human sin, of one's own sin, is to reject God's truth, God's man, Jesus Christ.
Phillip A. Ross is the author of many Christian books and is an elder of the Mid-Ohio Valley Reformed Fellowship, which meets at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday at the Williamstown Days Inn and weekly in homes. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.