Luke 6:21:

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. (NASB)

What is the meaning of “hunger” (peinaó in Greek) here? Is Jesus referring to physical or spiritual hunger? A similar question can be asked about verse 20 - is Jesus referring to people who are physically poor, or those who are spiritually poor?

If he’s referring to physical hunger/poverty, how is it that these people will gain the Kingdom of God? Is Jesus saying anyone who is poor will be able to have eternal life?

  • 1
    Answerers: please don't jump immediately to what Matthew says (I'm asking just for myself, not for Gremosa or in my mod hat). This question is about Luke, and while the canon is important, each text still stands by itself, telling a clear and effective message. I don't think our first instinct should be to jump to the parallels. If we do, we may not actually be giving ourselves time to understand the text itself.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 14 '20 at 9:23

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Is Jesus referring to physical or spiritual hunger? Both.

Is Jesus saying anyone who is poor will be able to have eternal life?

This is logically not true but there is a sense that it is true in some way.

Luke 16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

Jesus expects rich people to help the poor. If they don't, it is sin to them. The rich man sin against God and Lazarus. Lazarus, though poor, didn't sin against the rich man.

  • I appreciate you bringing in the rich man and Lazarus passage. I had never thought about it in relation to the intersection of physical poverty and spiritual wealth but it’s a great example. Thank you!
    – Gremosa
    Nov 18 '20 at 3:05
  • Glad to help. God bless!
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 18 '20 at 17:30

What sort of hunger is Jesus referring to in the Beatitudes?

Luke 6:21: NASB

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

Matthew 5:6 NASB

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

From Luke’s Gospel alone one might think that Jesus spoke exclusively of persons who hunger for material food. However, Matthew makes it plain that he meant those with an intense desire for righteousness. However, both these thoughts harmonize. Persons lacking literal food and drink are often more keenly aware of widespread injustice in the present wicked world that we live in. Hence, their hunger or yearning to see righteousness prevail can be all the more compelling.

  • Up-voted. You make a good point. If the whole world heeded the words of John the Baptist (he that hath more than sufficient food, give to him who hath not) then there would be no hunger. So hunger is the direct result of un-righteousness.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 14 '20 at 8:34
  • Yor are indeed right Nijel, God's Kingdom will do away with un-righteousness. Psalm 37:11 KJV But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Ps 37:10 the wicked will be no more, Ps 72:16 Food shortages will not exist. Isaiah 65:21-24 The whole earth will become a paradise. Also Rev.11:18. Tks Nov 14 '20 at 10:04
  • I agree with you wholeheartdly, except to confirm that what you outline will only be after 'new heavens and a new earth' are created anew ; and the old, after final judgment, is a conflagration, the elements melting with fervent heat. Then, shall there be a kingdom on earth such as you describe, I believe.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 14 '20 at 11:24

The parallel account in Matt 5:6 is possibly more helpful:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

In commenting on this, Ellicott says:

(6) Which do hunger and thirst.—We seem in this to hear the lesson which our Lord had learnt from the recent experience of the wilderness. The craving of bodily hunger has become a parable of that higher yearning after righteousness, that thirsting after God, even as the hart desireth the water-brooks, which is certain, in the end, to gain its full fruition. Desires after earthly goods are frustrated, or end in satiety and weariness. To this only belongs the promise that they who thus “hunger and thirst” shall assuredly be filled. The same thoughts meet us again in the Gospel which in many respects is so unlike that of St. Matthew. (Comp. John 4:14; John 4:32).

Barnes makes similar remarks:

Blessed are they which do hunger ... - Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isaiah 55:1-2.


Compared to the specificity of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12), there is an open-endedness to the blessings in the gospel of Luke (Lk 6:20-21).

Though I don’t have a clear answer as to what kind of hunger is referred to in the verse “Blessed are you who are hungry now” (Lk 6:21), this question made me think about passages in the New Testament that weave together physical and spiritual hunger:

  • The story of the prodigal son (Lk 15 11:32) – After the younger son leaves home and squanders his inheritance, his thoughts turn toward home when he experiences physical hunger. But it is his spiritual hunger, his longing for forgiveness and reconciliation, that defines his journey home. The father’s welcome and the banquet address both the son’s physical as well as spiritual hunger.
  • Jesus and Peter (Jn 21:4-14) – Jesus’ appearance, after his resurrection, to the disciples at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. After an unsuccessful night of fishing, the disciples were greeted by Jesus with a breakfast of grilled fish and bread. The meal fed their physical hunger, but the details involving Peter suggest there is more to the story. Given that he was “naked,” which harkens back to the nakedness of Adam and Eve after their betrayal (Gen 3:7), that he couldn’t wait for the rest but jumped into the water and swam to shore, and considering their conversation afterward (Jn 21:15-17), the meal served as a symbolic gesture of the forgiveness and reconciliation that Peter needed.

These stories begin with but then lead us beyond physical hunger. Inside, both Peter and the character of the younger son were spiritually hungry for mercy and forgiveness. This movement from the physical to the spiritual is similarly seen in the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:1-30), though there the movement is from a physical to a spiritual thirst for God.

“Blessed are those who hunger.” In these passages, physical hunger seems to serve as an gateway into examining our deeper spiritual hunger and needs.


He was referring to the hunger after righteousness. Cross reference: Mat 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Sinners should hunger after righteousness (repent by believing in Christ) so that they shall be filled (saved).


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