The fourth beatitude is:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Mt 5:6)
Picture from Wikimedia. It is in the Public Domain.
Some verses down from the Beatitudes, Jesus talks about righteousness:
… unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:20)
To “exceed” here does not merely mean “more severe” or “stricter”. It means to “go beyond”. We have to reach a higher or deeper level than what the Pharisees and the scribes taught. The Pharisees and the scribes were learned men whose faults lay in their inability to go beyond what was solely on the human level. Thus, we should hunger for the righteousness that properly belongs to God.
In discernment, we weigh our options. We see a similar image with Lady Justice with her scales. Unlike the physical scales we use in the world, which weigh quantitatively, we weigh that which are qualitative. We have the Lord’s will on one pan and our actions on the other side. Is what I am doing right now what the Lord wills of me? Could my willfulness be tipping the scales, causing it to be unbalanced? When Jesus speaks of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He is speaking of those who truly seek God’s will. Even though our actions may be exactly what the Lord wills but if there is a little self-centredness or self-interest added, the scales will tip. When we want what God wants because we love Him, the scales will remain balanced. When we only do what God wants because “there is something in it for me”, then the scales will not be balanced. Whilst being the imperfect creatures that we are, the scales cannot be always perfectly balanced, we still have to try our best, submitting to the grace of God.