Oh, it gets good here. In the claim of the sage Jesus is the possibility of the transformation of desire and want. He uses the well-known feelings of earthly hunger and thirst to enable the social animal to see what the rational social animal would be like. Now this is something to long for. How long will it take? How much effort will have to be put in? That all depends on how much time was spent feeding unrighteousness.
Let us elaborate on the analogy. What is it like to hunger and thirst? It is to have all of one’s attention directed at activity which will satisfy that which is hungered after and thirsted after. The ends are defined by the the longing which can become a starving. As the hunger and thirst grows so grows the determination to acquire. With growing determination strategy, time management, willingness to work also grow. Just as the “addict” may be willing to do whatever to acquire that which he is addicted to, here Jesus simply transfers the notion of addiction to that which is best-righteousness.
Note that the transition has been made from willed submission that is the beginning of meekness to a transformation of feeling and taste. This means that the second birth has taken root. There is now a live and burning fire for righteousness in the individual. Like fire only directs upward the hunger and thirst for righteousness has a way of directing the individual well above and beyond the needs and demands of the social animal.
You and I both know what it means to hunger and thirst in the earthly sense. It gnaws at you. You can’t get it out of your attention. Your eyes and ears move in whatever direction you can find would satisfy the longing. Now at least take seriously that Jesus of Nazareth says such a state related to righteousness is possible.
There is cause for great celebration here. The reognition of lack, the weighing and acknowledgement of its significance, the difficult submission to what feels unnatural–all of this has resulted in a transformation of inner directedness. And this is everything.
Now, the earthly in me will look here for something like, “after that it will be easy”. No, first note that the question is temporal as if there is a point before and a point after. I do not thing such a question warranted. Nor do I think that an “either/or” is possible in my instantiation of any of these stages. In thought there are the categories of righteous or unrighteous, mourning or not mourning, meek or not meek. In actual instantiation of any of these categories there is the messiness of time and space. My sense is that the hunger and thirst for righteousness is to be approached in the same way as any of the others–it is to be approached not knowing the upper limit of the instantiation of the category and so not being content at any temporal point.
Here, the rational in rational animal becomes a longing. Here, the human realizes that his real sustenance is not bread alone. Here, at this point is the realization that there is a reality, an energy, that is not measurable in space and time or any of its characteristics, but it is more important than any of that.
How long should I meekly submit? Until I hunger and thirst for righteousness. How much should I hunger and thirst for righteousness? There is no upward limit. What should that look like in this life? That depends, beyond the bare minimum of “Don’t” murder, steal, break promise, or perform for show the nuances of what the instantiation of righteous hunger looks like in your life is specific to your life.
Here I appeal to the Stoic Epictetus. When asked how a man could know his task Epictetus says much can be learned by social relations. Are you a son, a husband, a father, a teacher, a business man, a citizen, a neighbor? Righteousness is filled in through all of these relations and more.
Most important is not to look for verification of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. One needs no verification that he hungers for food or thirsts for water. I what the sage Jesus says is a real development in movement toward blessedness, then it will be as intuitively certain to you as the other types of hunger and thirst are.