“ In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.”
The book of Acts records the acts of the apostles, those who were called by Jesus as followers. In this book, we see miraculous healings, disciples discipling others in Christ and the Word of God being taken city to city. Nestled between these life changing, faith-changing chapters we meet our muse for the week, Dorcas.
Based on verse 36 of chapter 9 we can begin to make a characterization of Dorcas, our sister in faith.
Name: Tabitha, in greek Dorcas
City of residence: Joppa
Known for: being a faithful disciple, giving and helping the poor
These three details are essential to the development of the story and yet, there is so much lacking from the story as well. We do not know how old Dorcas was. We do not know if she had siblings or not. We do not know what her profession was or how much money she made. We do not know what her favorite hymn was or when she became a believer in God. These details, though missing from Dorcas’s story, are often the details we cling to in our own story. Many women define themselves by what they possess, who they are married to, or what their background is. I’d like to think God gave us just enough information about Dorcas, the essential and most important information, to glean from. Being known for your faithfulness to God and your faithful acts of service to others is far greater than anything else we can be known for.
How do I know? Dorcas is a great example of a biblical command Jesus gave in Matthew 5:16: “in the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. Dorcas’s faithful acts of charity to the poor were so evident that Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, and the Holy Spirit wanted us to know exactly what type of spiritual character Dorcas possessed. I wonder if today, we can characterize ourselves more by our good works in God and less by our what we may or may not have attained.
As the story continues, Dorcas becomes sick and dies, but believers of God through Christ urged the apostle Peter to come to their city. When Peter gets there, the widows showed him the work of Dorcas’s hands: robes and other clothing she made. This small detail is another one of my favorites because if we enlarge this moment we see the impact Dorcas left on other believers. I believe these widows must have missed their sister, their friend, who had made such large contributions to their community. Her good works continued to proceed her even in death! Peter then prays and our dearest Dorcas raises up, taking his hand and Peter presents her to the believers, especially (the Bible says) to the widows.
God’s work in this story was displayed two fold: once through Dorcas’s charity and once through her miraculous rise from death.
We all won’t be the type of women whose names are etched into history books. I’ve come to terms with that, I hope you have too. What’s more important is that we become the type of women whose names are etched into the Book of Life. When we make God and His people our priority, God takes notice and we become a vessel for Him to display His work and glory through us. I can only imagine what conversations Dorcas and her widow friends had after she rose from the dead. Did they hug her a little tighter each time they said goodbye? Did she thank them for giving her a second chance at life to continue her charitable work? Did they realize, each one of them including Dorcas, that they would be women who God would write into His Holy Word?
The physical details of Dorcas’s life pale in comparison to the spiritual details we receive from this story. The work of God is displayed, more times than not, in such simple ways. A faithful seamstress with a heart for the poor became a witness to God’s miracles and the source of belief many would have in Him. I pray we desire to become like Dorcas, faithful to God, apt to serve those less fortunate in our communities and a vessel to cause even our closest friends to believe more deeply in God.