We’ve met many women in the Bible who were wives, mothers, and widows. Their stories usually involve their families. Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, stands out because of her friendship and kindness to other women.
Dorcas in the Bible
We find the story of Dorcas in Acts 9. The chapter opens with the salvation of Paul and his earliest ministry. Then we have a quick story about Peter healing a bedridden man in Bethel. Immediately following in verse 36 is the introduction to Dorcas.
“At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.’ (NKJV)
So, before we go further, let’s address why she was called both Dorcas and Tabitha. Dorcas is her Greek name. Tabitha is the Hebrew translation. She lived in Joppa, a seaport where Greek was the primary language. Since she is the first female mentioned in the New Testament with a Greek name, we’ll call her by her Greek name, since that is how she is best known.
We’re immediately drawn to this woman because of her good works, and yet, the story continues by telling us that this kind woman got sick and died.
But, Peter was in Lydda, which was about eight miles away, so the other Joppa disciples sent two men to call for Peter to come immediately, which he did.
When Peter arrived at her house, he was surrounded by weeping women showing him the beautiful garments that Dorcas had sewn for them. Peter ushered them all out of the upper room where Dorcas laid, then he knelt down beside her and prayed. When he finished praying he called out, “Tabitha arise.” And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
Peter helped her up, called to the saints and widows downstairs, and presented her alive.
As a result of her resurrection, many in Joppa believed in the Lord.
The Rest of the Story
It’s a short story that tells us much.
I love her description. “This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.”
Imagine having one sentence to describe you for all eternity, and that’s the statement that’s recorded. What an amazing testimony that would be!
Later in the story we get a glimpse into the type of good works and charitable deeds that she did. Widows were mourning her death, and when Peter arrived, they closed in on him, showing him all the clothing items that Dorcas had made for them.
This scene has always amused me, perhaps because I can picture it so vividly. Peter comes to pray over Dorcas, but he can’t get to her because of all these grieving widows who want to show him the beautiful stitching and workmanship of the dresses she’d made. Like Peter cared! Peter didn’t care about clothes. He hadn’t traveled eight miles for a fashion show.
But it’s so sweet. These women adored Dorcas. They admired her talent. They were honored to have these garments that she’d gifted them. They wanted to make sure that Peter understood just how important she was to them. So they showed him in the only way they knew how.
It wasn’t just the widows who admired Dorcas. She was well loved by all the Joppa disciples as evidenced by the men who hurried to get Peter.
What did they hope to accomplish? Did they want him to show his respects? Did they ask him to perform the funeral? Were they expecting him to raise her from the dead? Surely not, as the disciples had not been known to raise the dead.
Most likely Peter himself wasn’t sure what he was to do. Nevertheless, he made haste and hurried to Joppa to the home of Dorcas. Then he kicked everyone else out of the upper room and knelt and prayed at her bedside. When he finished praying he called out for her to arise.
Was he surprised when she opened her eyes and sat up? I imagine he was. He was used to healing people who were sick. He wasn’t used to restoring life to the dead.
Imagine his excitement as he helped her out of bed and yelled down to the waiting disciples and widows that Dorcas was alive.
Her story closes by letting us know that as a result of her resurrection that many believed in the Lord, and Peter stayed many days in the city of Joppa.
We can only assume that Dorcas continued on with her charitable work of making beautiful garments for the poor and widowed. In fact, in the early 1800’s, ministry groups, inspired by her story, created Dorcas Societies, charities dedicated to providing clothing and other needs for the poor. At least one of those continues on today.
What Can We Learn From Dorcas in the Bible?
If your life were summed up in a sentence or two, what would that sentence be? Would it praise your good works like Dorcas? Do you have those whose lives have been affected by what you’ve done for them? Are you leaving behind a legacy for future generations?
We know very little about Dorcas’ s personal life. There’s no mention of husband or children, so we could assume she was single. Perhaps she had a soft spot for widows because she, too was a widow.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own disappointments. We complain about how unfair life treats us.
What if instead of complaining that you’re all alone, you used that time to reach out to others who are alone as well? How special to see how beloved Dorcas was and how many friends she was blessed with.
You may worry that you have so little to offer others. But we’re each gifted with our own talents and abilities. Dorcas could sew. She did beautiful handiwork. Rather than merely designing lovely garments for herself, she
made clothes for those around her. And note, she didn’t just throw things together because for the poor. No, she took great pains to create items they could be proud of, garments they could show off.
So often our generosity means giving away what we don’t want, providing lesser items, justifying our actions by convincing ourselves that the poor should be thankful for whatever they can get. That was not the attitude of Dorcas. Not only did she give physical items, she offered them pride and dignity as well.
I challenge you today to take a survey of your skills and seek to find opportunities to minister to others through those skills. You never know the difference your simple gifts might make to those recipients.
I invite you as well to seek out friendship with other women. Whether your single, married, divorced, or widowed, find other women you can enjoy life with and be there for each other. Female friendship is a blessed and beautiful gift from God.
Lord God, thank You for the gift of friendship and for women like Dorcas who give so generously and provide such a beautiful example for each of to follow. Thank You for this reminder that You have gifted each one of us not for selfish purposes but that we might minister to others.
Open our eyes to the opportunities You have for us to serve others and impact their lives. Forgive us those times we foolishly complain that we have no talents. Reveal to us just how unique and special You have made us, blessing us so that we might bless others and draw them to You. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Dorcas in the Bible Study
Her Story: Acts 9:36-43
Bible Study Review
- What was Dorcas’ Hebrew name?
- Who did the disciples call on when Docas died?
- What did the widows show Peter?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did the disciples bring in Peter?
- How did Peter revive Dorcas?
- What happened as a result of the resurrection?
- How are you ministering to those around you?
- How would others describe you in a few words?
- Are you leaving behind a legacy of changed lives?
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