I wandered aimlessly through a mall recently and didn’t see anything I wanted. Clothes? Nope. New gadgets? Maybe next year. Kitchen supplies? Our kitchen drawers are already stuffed.
It was strange to be surround by people entranced by things I didn’t care about. I wasn’t buying; didn’t even want to buy … until I got to the food court. In the food court, every consumer urge within me stood at attention and drew me to the counters. I smelled the pizza loaded with sausage and glistening with flame-kissed cheese. The French fries were cheerfully sizzling in their baskets. I peeked over the display to admire the tubs of ice cream: thick with buried nuts, caramel and cookie dough. The grinders in the coffee place whirred, spinning out aroma-trails of deep earthy muskiness, luring me toward a steaming cappuccino. Some primal place in the back of my brain overloaded on stimuli, and I was powerless against the kryptonite of hunger.
I gave in and plunged into a bacon cheeseburger. The onion, ketchup, bacon and beef brought me pleasure. The hunt was over, the stag had been killed, and I was OK again.
Hunger isn’t important until it is. When your stomach is satisfied you think you’ll never be hungry again. But let three or four hours go by and you’re astounded that you’re once again thinking of food! How can that be? I was hungry. Then I wasn’t hungry. And now I’m hungry again?
It’s the same thing with water. I’ll be on a plane; one of those long overnight flights. The air is stale and dry. The cabin quiets down as people drop off to sleep. I sleep. Perhaps a bit of turbulence wakens me, and my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. My lips have been super-glued together. I’m not sure I can open them. Has my wife, Yvonne, pranked me? No, she’s sound asleep. I … Must … Have … Water. I lurch down the aisle to the galley where the flight attendant grudgingly serves me water in a plastic cup and then returns to his book. The search was over, the well had been drilled, and I was OK again.
Hunger and thirst are primal desires that, unless satisfied, completely distract us from anything and everything else. These desires drive us, compel us and overtake secondary matters like clothes, gadgets and kitchen appliances.
Jesus blessed those who pursue righteousness with the same compulsion with which they pursue food and water, saying, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Rather than wandering aimlessly through the day, He targets us toward a passionate pursuit of righteousness throughout the day. He’s urging us to go after righteousness with the same clocklike regularity as when we go after food and water. Tick, tock. Are you righteous yet?
First thing every morning, I make coffee. Then we read the Bible together. I’m not worried about the order of those two, but I am worried that reading the Bible may not be a good indicator of my pursuit of righteousness. I know that immersing myself in God’s written word is a part of pursuing righteousness, but I also know it can’t be all of it. Righteousness is broader and more encompassing than certain habits, be they coffee or Bible reading! Righteousness is right relationship with the God who makes a covenant with us. Righteousness is me living up to my part of the agreement, both my being and my behaviors. Righteousness is the only way to truly feel full. Tick, tock. Feeling like a snack?
If we pursue who He is, pursue Him into the very core of our beings, so much that we become more and more like Him; if we pursue Him the same way we pursue sizzling fries in December and ice water in July, we will be satisfied, thoroughly, although not permanently. The satisfaction isn’t permanent because the clock ticks, and the clock tocks, and relationships aren’t transactions. If righteousness were a transaction, it would be like buying a kitchen appliance. Buy it, and be done with it. Put it on the shelf, and dust it off from time to time. But righteousness isn’t for sale. It’s for absorption and reflection — absorption from Him and reflection to the community. We must constantly renew that relationship, or we go dry and dull.
Thirst won’t abate until we drink. Hunger pangs won’t be stilled until we eat. Our souls won’t be full until we’re right with Him, made right like Him, and act right like Him. We were made to eat. We were made to drink. We were made to be righteous and fully so, full throughout the ticking, and full throughout the tocking.
Bishop David Roller served for 17 years as a Free Methodist missionary in Mexico and then for 10 years as Latin America area director for Free Methodist World Missions. He was first elected a bishop in 2007.1