Everything the Bible has to say about Dorcas is found in Acts chapter 9.
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And since as Lydda was near to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and knelt down, and prayed; and turning to the body said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord (Acts 9:36-42).
This woman is addressed by two names in Acts chapter 9, Tabitha and Dorcas. Both names mean “gazelle.” The name Tabitha is of Chaldee origin, and Dorcas is the Greek version of the same name. Peter called her Tabitha when he raised her from the dead, but in all the stories I’ve heard of her, she has always been referred to as Dorcas.
Dorcas was a seamstress, and apparently a very talented one at that. No mention is made of her marital status or her age, and I will make no assumptions. It is possible that she made clothes for a living, but we know for sure that she made clothes to give as gifts to others.
Dorcas was a giver. She was well loved because she had such a tender heart for those in need. Perhaps you have a friend who is good at making things and loves to give her handmade gifts to others. A dear friend recently blessed me with the gift of a travel pillow tucked inside a beautiful pillow case she had made especially for me, using fabric with a musical pattern because she knows how much I love music. I remember her fondly every time I use that pillow. Similarly, Dorcas made clothes for others. We know from the context that she made clothes and coats for the poor, but I think perhaps she also gave gifts to her friends for special occasions or no occasion at all, just because.
Dorcas became ill and died from her illness. Her loss was keenly felt in the community, for she had been a beloved friend and a godly woman. They heard that the apostle Peter was in a city nearby, and they called for him to come. They had laid her body neatly in an upper room of the house. Peter entered the room, told everyone else to leave, then knelt down and prayed to the Lord. No doubt he gave praise to God for this dear woman’s testimony and asked that she might be given a little more time on this earth to continue being a blessing to those around her. The Lord heard and answered his prayer, for by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter called out the woman’s name, and she miraculously opened her eyes and sat up. Peter extended his hand to her, and she stood and went out with him to greet the mourners.
As you might expect, news of this miracle traveled far, and many believed on the Lord as a result. So God received glory through Dorcas, both in her life and in her death. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” This was the testimony of Dorcas as well. Her sacrificial life of service to others is one of the greatest distinguishing features between true Christianity and other religions. Those who truly know the Lord will desire to reach out and help others with no thought of reward. So many religions of the world teach hate and intolerance, but those who follow Christ are known by their love.
As I reflect on what we know about Dorcas and the favor with which she was looked upon in her community, I wonder, what legacy am I leaving behind? When it’s my turn to die, I don’t wish to be raised back to life again, but will I even be missed? Am I making a difference in my community? my neighborhood? my church? my family? Will anyone feel a loss when I am gone? This will only be true to the extent that I live for others and not for myself. It is not my intention to be morbid here, but to awaken an outward focus. How much time do I spend serving God and others versus the time I spend meeting my own needs? I should not neglect my body, for it is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but most of us don’t have a problem with that. If I want to make a difference, the way Dorcas did, then I need to think more of others and less of myself. I have so many good intentions, but how many of them never become actions? Lord, I want You to use me as a channel to pour Your blessing into the lives of others. Please start right now.
And of some have compassion, making a difference.” —Jude 22
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Next week: Naomi
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