“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 NLT)
In 2013, Landon Jones woke up with a bacterial infection of his left lung. Even though his doctor was able to take care of the infection, Landon suffered from an ongoing side effect that is quite unusual: he could no longer feel hungry or thirsty. Within a year he lost thirty-six pounds, nearly a third of this thirteen-year-old’s body weight. As of the last news reports, the doctors were still puzzled by his affliction and his parents still needed to constantly remind him to eat and drink.
The sensations of hunger and thirst are so fundamental to our bodies that it’s nearly impossible to image with any kind of accuracy what Landon experienced. At its most basic, hunger pangs are the recognition of an emptiness that needs to be filled, a wrong that needs to be corrected. It can usually be corrected through consuming some sort of food. But there are certain hungers that are difficult, if not impossible, to satisfy this side of heaven.
In her book Bread for Resistance: 40 Devotions for Justice People, Donna Barber writes, “Biblical references to the word justice mean ‘to make right.’ It is a relational term. So, the work of justice involves bringing people back into right relationship with God, one another, and creation. It is rooted in his divine nature and always working to realign us with his divine will.” If justice work is all about relational reconciliation between people at God, one another, and creation as Barber says, then there will be inevitable failures, for our world is broken and cannot be mended by human hands or effort. Yet, Jesus reassures us in Matthew 5:6 that the justice hunger pangs we feel will in the end be satisfied. Though it may take until Christ’s return, it is better to live in this state of hunger and thirst than to be like Landon Jones and never know hunger in the first place.