The Motifs of Good Works set out to resolve seven injustices known to our world. They promote and ensure: provision; relief; inclusion; forbearance; growth; stewardship; and, grace.
1. Poverty and Provision
We know that where our treasure is our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). Jesus spoke a great deal in the gospels about not storing up things for ourselves. All good law protects and provides for the poor—this is a fundamental biblical premise. We, too, must show due partiality and favour to the needy, the fatherless and the proverbial widow.
We who have must share (Acts 2:45).
2. Hunger and Shelter – Enabling and Relief
Suffering is everywhere. The ‘blessed,’ i.e. materially, often will not see the wood for the trees here. It wasn’t until I was 36—nearly thirteen years after I became a Christian—that I could see suffering. That is because I’d never suffered until then. It took my own folly to trip me up—God calling attention—for me to finally see the plight of the many suffering in this world.
Hospitality is a great and timely work of faith (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). We who have such simple provisions—a dwelling and food and water—are still to share.
We are also to open up our paradigms of ‘hunger,’ and relieve spiritual hunger in the name of Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
3. Including the Outcasts
The Jesus portrayed in the gospel of Luke—and elsewhere—was very much the Saviour of the social outcast; the lame, the leper, women (yes, women weren’t that highly thought of in ancient times), and other cultures other than Jews etc.
James forbids favouritism, in the name of the Lord, in James 2:1-13. And still, we’re so inherently apt at giving esteem to those who seem to already have it, relegating those outcast to the scraps of fellowship. Schools are havens for this phenomenon; yet, so too are workplaces. It’s everywhere.
We are to friend the outcast, sharing our compassion.
4. Forbearance for the Imprisoned and Persecuted
The first time I ever set foot in prison, which was only relatively recently, I was amazed at the harshness of the environment. Hard floors and huge locks on the doors; no smiles to be seen. We too often do not see this harshness in everyday life—not where I live, anyway.
For the coerced we show not pity, but empathy. We cannot change their situations; only God truly can. But we can get in alongside, and as Kairos Prison Ministry says, “Listen, listen; love, love.”
5. Nurturing and Growth for ‘the Least of These’
Jesus identified himself with “the least of these.” (See Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 10:14 etc.) And we are to do that too. God encourages ‘the least of these’ to climb up one more rung and we have our role in this mighty plan. Shepherding is one role of the Almighty; as God shepherds us we shepherd others and so on.
Growth is truly the key to life, for whoever does not grow, capitulates. The ‘least of these’ are not always afforded opportunities to grow—that is for us to ensure there are opportunities and safe ones at that. To which we encourage.
6. Giving, Philanthropy and Stewardship
Good works is fundamentally about money—the use of tangible provision to afford for others many things of human need.
Many of us are not affluent, but there are many also who are. Affluence is a gift to be shared, proportionate to the extent of the heart those who are affluent have to give. But in Western society we’re all relatively affluent.
And stewardship is genuinely not all about money. We must steward wisely our time and effort, channelling it for God’s purposes. Pooling our resources with the intent of sharing them and making them go far is a very godly and good work.
7. Grace or Fruit-Bearing Response
Works-righteousness seems a great place to leave off. Grace is warranted for these whom cannot see their lack; a lack rooted in the lack of a tangible Presence of the Lord’s grace through faith.
We cannot work for our salvation.
For this we also identify, certainly at times. Great heaps of grace upon us all in these instances!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Source of 7 Motif Structure: Thomas C. Oden, The Good Words Reader (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007).