At Royston Elementary School, 53% of students receive some kind of free or reduced-price lunch. Sadly, this is very close to the national average. Over half of all school-aged children receive some assistance for their lunch. I imagine, like you, there are some who are abusing the system. However, I am also certain there are far too many children who look forward to the meal the school provides because it is the best meal they will get all day.
In Luke’s Gospel, the Beatitude is different: “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be filled.” Luke 6:21 The primary difference between Luke and Matthew is the word righteousness. I think with a better understanding of that word, in it’s original meaning, you will find these two passages more compatible.
The Hebrew word for righteousness in this instance isn’t simple to find but scholars link it this word, tsedaqah. It has two meanings: (1) a justice that rescues and releases the oppressed and (2) a justice that restores the powerless and the outcasts to their rightful place in covenant community. In our very individualistic culture in which we live today, the thought of righteousness is normally seen as an individual virtue: I am righteous. But as you can see from this definition, there is certainly a community-minded emphasis on the word. In fact, if we used the definition for individual purposes we should use the word selfrighteous and we know from Romans 3 “there is no one who is righteous, not even one,” this is not a virtuous trait.
As we look for ways to live virtuously, I hope you will look to be more tsedaqah. I urge you to reread Matthew 5:6 this way, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a justice that delivers and restores to covenant community, for God is a God who brings such justice.”
How might we deliver and restore to covenant community those who are in fact hungering and thirsting in our midst? It just so happens March is one of our months to gather food for the Rainbow Pantry. We have a Community Mission Blitz coming up on April 11th, certainly we will be helping the least of these on that day. More importantly, we have some of the sharpest minds in this area. I pray we each be about righteousness that is not self-righteous, but righteousness that is aiding in justice that restores the powerless and outcasts to a covenant community.
On the Journey, Pastor Barlow