In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Matthew 5:6
Tim Costello knows a thing or two about hungering and thirsting for justice. He’s spent decades advocating and campaigning on issues that impact the poor and marginalised, in Australia and around the world. As he shares, many of these battles have been the uphill kind, but the hunger and thirst that has driven Tim has always been met in the truth and hope of Jesus.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
Living into the Beatitudes is the path of discipleship, signalling a kingdom that will actually be characterised by these virtues. These virtues are very different to a consumer capitalist, individualist society – they are the opposite. Thirsting for justice and righteousness includes personal righteousness, but that's not where it starts. It's actually seeing the world reordered along lines of justice and equity, which is the announcement of the kingdom of God.
Most of the most faithful Christians in the world are going to be poor all their lives. The notion of prosperity theology – that if you're faithful, you're going to be blessed, and that means you're going to be rich – actually, this side of the coming of Jesus, isn't true for most Christians. Christians struggle, are persecuted, serve sacrificially without necessarily the restoration in this lifetime. Resurrection announces that evil will not permanently rule – that will be the justice of God. But living in between, we don't necessarily experience that. It remains the hope of our resurrection and God's rule on earth. Rather than a formula: if you hunger and thirst, you can in five or 10 years, be filled. It's why I believe in judgement, boy, do I believe in judgement: that God will judge with righteousness, and in resurrection, will restore. There is a future element to it.
The other side of it is a present element: the happiest people I have seen have often been amongst the world's poor. They still have song and dance and community, friendship. And I come back to Australia where we have solved the problem of supply – we have enough houses and cars and clean water – and there people are depressed and anxious. And I go, there is a truth now. But it's paradoxical.
If I really believe I don't have to squeeze everything into this one life, every advance and protection and career opportunity, because there is another life, I can give sacrificially. I can actually take risks.
Hungering for justice and righteousness can be affected by our privilege. I think that’s where Christian faith is so important. Jesus stands over against the culture, all cultures, including ours. Christian faith gives you a position to say that if Jesus did not grasp out equality with God, but emptied Himself, and became a human and suffered – that stands over against the self-sufficiency, the self-protection, the fear of any vulnerability that is the given of being a Western white man. I think the orientation of Christian faith really helps in saying, I need to also practice humility, which for the Greco Roman, is not one of the virtues because it was too much like humiliation. Who would ever want to be humble? Here is God who humiliates himself and suffers even death on a cross. There is a great inability to really empathise given our privilege, but this goes right to the heart of my Christian faith that actually, this is God's world. He's passionate about the broken and the poor, he hasn't given up on them. And therefore, if I orient myself with that God and follow him in Jesus, I have to come out of my bubble. I have to expose myself to giving and serving and I think that's where resurrection helps. If I really believe I don't have to squeeze everything into this one life, every advance and protection and career opportunity, because there is another life, I can give sacrificially. I can actually take risks. I can actually take serious kingdom risks, because I believe there is another world and I'm going to be part of it.
There was a moment when my kids were in their teenage years, and my daughter said to me, Dad, is there any campaign you've backed that's ever won? [I’ve thought at times] I should just give up, what’s the point? But what sustains me is Christian faith, that sense that I'm not the Messiah. This is God's world. He wants to fix it. I will align myself and do what I can. But it's not my responsibility at the end of the day, it's his, and that actually sustains me.
I always experienced that ‘being filled’ when I was with communities in low income countries [with World Vision]. It wasn’t that we had done this or that, it was actually recognising this community, and its sense of culture and joy in very simple things. It just would move me. And I'd actually come back to Australia and feel a bit dead. I'd want to shake people and say, there's a joy there. A love there, that we don't know about. Those are the things that really filled me.
I believe the church needs to understand that its identity is in Christ. I have a dear friend who helps feed the poor, but he's very right wing. He still sort of believes Trump won the election; not too sure about climate change. We spar over politics. But at the end of the day, he says, ‘isn't it good Tim, that our identity is not in politics, our identity is in Christ.’ Now it has to be the Jesus of the Gospels, not the Christ captured by culture and nationalism. But I think as the swirling winds of vaccine or anti-vax and mandates and all the political issues that swirl, that we know these aren't ultimate – our ultimate identity is in Christ. That's where we plant our feet. And that is solid ground when we plant our feet there.
We rarely know hunger or thirst in Australia, but we pray that we may experience hunger and thirst now – a hunger and thirst for justice.
We expect blessing as an entitlement of our birth, citizenship and our personal merit, but our longing is for deeper blessing which comes when we hunger and thirst for justice, as this is what reflects your heart.
We are over supplied with food and drink and rarely doubt that our bodily needs and appetites will be filled. But we know that our satiation with these things is temporary. Our deeper hunger and thirst is for justice which is permanent, that which changes the structures and systems around us which dehumanise and strips people of dignity and true worth as your sons and daughters.
We yield to you, the God of justice. You long to bring justice to all your children denied it. We align ourselves with your hunger for justice, knowing that in Jesus we see that you experienced justice denied. In Him we understand that to believe in You requires a faith that always takes the side of the outsider, the marginalised, the victim of injustice.
In that hunger, in that thirst we seek that those who have known injustice will be filled with your justification and grace.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Punya is a father of three, an organic farmer, an agriculture trainer, and a disability advocate. He also has the extraordinary skill of walking ‘upside down’, using his hands as well as feet to steady his body – having been born with a lame leg.
Like the other farmers in his village, Punya had struggled to grow enough food for his family. He tried using chemical pesticides and fertilisers, but they were expensive, and some were extremely toxic. That is, until Share and Care offered training and support for farmers to improve their yield. Embracing the opportunity to learn more, Punya joined a Farmers' Group and began his extraordinary journey to release his family from poverty. In turn, Share and Care recognised Punya’s natural leadership ability, and have nurtured his capacity to help others.
Having been released from the binds of poverty himself, Punya is determined to make a difference for those less fortunate than himself, and has helped hundreds of others in his region who live with disability to access their entitlements.
It is people like Punya who testify to the value of the work of Tearfund’s partners. Their vision for all people to flourish drives them to invest in the potential of people – whatever their physical ability. They see beyond the barriers of poverty, of social status, of gender and experience, to bring freedom for the benefit of all.