The Sermon on the Mount—Happinesses 4 and 5
AS THE fourth ‘happiness’ of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled.” (Matt. 5:6) Luke’s account of this statement reads: “Happy are you who hunger now, because you will be filled.”—Luke 6:21.
From Luke’s Gospel alone one might think that Jesus spoke exclusively of persons who hunger for material food. However, Matthew makes it plain that he meant those with an intense desire for righteousness. However, both these thoughts harmonize. Persons lacking literal food and drink are often more keenly aware of widespread injustice in the present system of things. Hence, their hunger or yearning to see righteousness prevail can be all the more compelling.
The “righteousness” of which Jesus spoke means the quality of rightness that fully conforms to God’s will and commandments. Expressing a thought similar to that of Jesus, the psalmist spoke of himself as being “crushed with longing” for God’s righteous judicial decisions.—Ps. 119:20; compare Isaiah 26:9, 10.
In contrast with this pronouncement of happiness, Jesus declared: “Woe to you who are filled up now, because you will go hungry.” (Luke 6:25) Those who are “filled up” feel satisfied by what this world offers. Though perhaps claiming to believe in God, they neither recognize their deep need for him nor have a longing for his standards of righteousness. (Rev. 3:17) However, times of calamity may momentarily awaken such a hunger for divine guidance. This will be true especially when God brings an end to the present system of things at the coming “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14) Such formerly self-satisfied persons will then “go hungry.” Their frantic cries for God’s help and direction will go unheeded. (Compare 1 Samuel 28:4-6; Psalm 18:41; Proverbs 1:28-32.) As far as hearing the word of Jehovah is concerned, at that time they will experience hopeless ‘famine and thirst.’—Amos 8:11, 12.
But Jesus declares “happy” those who hunger and thirst for righteousness now. Why? Because “they will be filled,” that is, fully satisfied. Jesus himself contributed much to this. While exposing the hypocrisy of pseudopious religious leaders “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” Jesus taught that all who admitted their sinful state and repentantly sought forgiveness could attain a righteous standing before God.—Luke 18:9-14; compare Matthew 5:20; 23:23, 24.
The further satisfying of hunger and thirst for righteousness was made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Concerning this, we read: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.”—Rom. 3:23, 24; compare Isaiah 53:11; Daniel 9:24-27; Revelation 7:9, 14.
Additional ‘filling’ of this vital hunger and thirst was possible after Pentecost of 33 C.E., for then the holy spirit began to “give the world convincing evidence concerning . . . righteousness.” (John 16:8) This proved to be true as God’s spirit was responsible for producing the Christian Greek Scriptures, an indispensable instrument “for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) The same active force of God enables people to put on “the new personality,” which replaces wicked practices and hypocrisy with “true righteousness.” (Eph. 4:24) Final and complete satisfying of hunger and thirst for righteousness will be experienced when faithful worshipers of God gain eternal life under perfectly righteous conditions.—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-5.
MERCY TO “THE MERCIFUL”
Next in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.”—Matt. 5:7.
Mercy is not simply a matter of performing charitable deeds, for one might do that hypocritically. (Matt. 6:1, 2) “The merciful” are persons who are genuinely motivated by tenderly compassionate and sympathetic feelings toward the unfortunate and who therefore act in their behalf. Jesus set a perfect example in this regard. Repeatedly the Scriptures state that before performing miracles to relieve suffering and distress Jesus “felt pity” or was “moved with pity.”—Matt. 14:14; 15:32-38; 20:34; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 7:13-15.
Mercy becomes manifest in two ways: (1) in a judicial sense when people forgive those who transgress against them; (2) by positive deeds of kindness, consideration and pity that bring relief to disadvantaged persons.
Christians are directed to “become imitators of God” as the foremost one who freely forgives repentant sinners. (Ex. 34:6, 7; Ps. 103:10; Prov. 28:13; Eph. 4:31–5:2) In a positive way persons who wish to please God must be willing to give whatever help is within their power to those who may be victims of unfortunate circumstances. (Luke 10:20-37) An especially fine way to show mercy is by sharing Bible truth with others. We note that when a crowd of people encountered Jesus on his way to get some rest “he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.”—Mark 6:34.
The merciful are “happy” because of being “shown mercy.” In one sense they experience this in day-to-day dealings with fellow humans. Merciful treatment of others prompts them to respond in kind. (Luke 6:38) Most importantly, the merciful will be shown mercy by God. In this regard, James writes: “For the one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy exults triumphantly over judgment.” (Jas. 2:13) When brought into judgment by God, truly compassionate persons will find that the mercy they have extended to others will in effect triumph over any adverse judgment that God might otherwise bring to bear against them. (2 Tim. 1:16-18) The opportunity for forgiveness of sins and eternal life are only for merciful persons. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” declared Jesus, “neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”—Matt. 6:15; 18:35.