In Acts 7:58,
Stephen, an evangelist and, I believe, a deacon in the Jerusalem
church, was stoned. In Acts
12:2, James, an apostle, was executed. These great workers in
the church died, and apart from grieving their loss and burying
them, nothing was done about it. However, according to Acts
9:36-41, a woman in Joppa named Tabitha, also known as Dorcas,
died. Her loss was so great to the church that Peter raised her
from the dead. Clearly, Dorcas was a special disciple. In fact,
every church needs disciples like Dorcas. Each of us needs to be a
disciple like Dorcas. What set her apart?
Dorcas was abounding in deeds of kindness and charity
The term translated “abounding” has an interesting
definition according to Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon. It means
“Replete, or covered over.” Dorcas was covered over in serving
others. Further, the text says she continually did these good
deeds. Not only did Dorcas perform good works and serve others,
she continually did so. Serving others was a habit for Dorcas.
We must be covered over in continually doing good works.
Paul, in Galatians 6:9-10,
said that we must never lose heart in doing good. Rather, we must
take every opportunity we have to do good to all, especially our
brethren. We need to be disciples like Dorcas.
Dorcas sacrificed for others.
When those widows showed Peter the garments and tunics
Dorcas made, who do you think had to pay for that material? If
these were Dorcas’ good deeds, then it was her money. Who had to
take the time to make those garments? Dorcas. That was sacrifice.
Too often we dream about how we would serve others if we
had more time or more money. We might even picture times coming up
in our lives when we will be better able to serve. When we get out
of school and get on our own… After we are married or after our
marriage settles in… Once our kids are out of the house or
finished with college… When we retire… Then we will have more
time and more money to serve others.
I do not know how much money Dorcas had. But I do know she
did not spend her time thinking about what she would do if she had
more. She figured out how to use the money she had to serve
others. Someone once said, “It is not what you would do if a
million were your lot, it is what you are doing with the dollar
and quarter you’ve got.” Regarding time, were you aware that
there were only 24 hours in a day during the Bible times, just
like today? Dorcas had the same amount of time you and I have. But
Dorcas made some choices about her time. She chose to use part of
her time to serve others. We must make these choices as well.
This means sacrifice. Maybe you won’t get that widescreen
television you wanted. Maybe you won’t let your kids play every
sport in which they are interested. Maybe you won’t take all
those vacations you had planned. Maybe you miss out on some things
you would like to buy or do—but that is what sacrifice is all
about. That is what Dorcas was all about and we need to be
disciples like Dorcas.
Dorcas did not do everything, but she did what she could.
The text highlights one activity for Dorcas. I am sure she
did more, but she excelled in one area. She made clothes. Dorcas
did not do everything, but she did what she could.
Too often we become overwhelmed with all the work that
needs to be done. When we recognize that we cannot do it all, we
do not do anything. At other times, we look at other Christians
who can do things we cannot. Because we cannot do what they can,
we decide what we can do must not be important and, again, we do
nothing. These situations are similar to the one talent man in Matthew
25:14-30. He could not do much with his one talent. Therefore,
in fear, he did nothing. But the master rebuked him, explaining
that he should at least have done something. That is where we are.
We certainly cannot do everything. We may not be able to do what
others can do. But we can all do something. We must do that
What can you do? Can you cook? … clean? … fix clothes?
… cut grass? … babysit? … visit the sick? … write cards of
encouragement? … make encouraging phone calls? … teach Bible
classes? … conduct home studies? … have people into your home?
… fix cars? … build things? … do handyman repairs? … pray
with people? … hold others accountable to God’s word? … help
others grow spiritually? No matter how little or great you may
think your abilities are, they were given to you to serve others (I
Peter 4:10). We must be disciples like Dorcas.
Dorcas did not serve everyone, but she served those she
When Peter arrived in Lydda and was brought to the room
where Dorcas’ body lay, he was not greeted by every disciple in
the church. He was greeted by widows whom Dorcas had served. I am
not saying Dorcas never did kind deeds for anyone else. But Dorcas
evidently focused on a particular group—widows. Dorcas did not
serve everyone, but she served those she could.
Too often we look around and see all the people that need
to be helped and once again are paralyzed into inaction. We have
all heard of the one commonly referred to as Mother Theresa. While
I believe her theology was dead wrong, I believe her attitude
toward service was dead on. She is reported to have said something along the lines of,
“I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I cannot help
everyone, but I can help someone.” Who can you help?
We might ask, “How do I choose? I do not want to form a
clique.” I do not think Dorcas was a cliquish Christian, but she
focused on one group—widows. Is there a group your gifts can
particularly help? … widows? … elderly? … young marrieds?
… young parents? … plant workers? … farmers? We do not know
why Dorcas focused on the widows. Certainly their great need
played a part. No husband is mentioned for Dorcas, perhaps she too
was a widow and understood their needs. Maybe her mother was a
widow and in taking care of her (cf. I
Timothy 5:16) she learned of the great needs for all widows.
Dorcas evidently had a desire to help the widows, she could help
the widows and thus she did help the widows.
Further, as you consider who you are to love and serve,
remember the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke
10:30-35. The Samaritan did not help all people. But neither
did he only help his closed circle of Samaritans. He helped the
one with whom he came in contact. Who should you serve? Why not
start tonight by giving some encouragement or praying with the
person you are sitting next to this evening? Don’t bypass them
to get to your closer friends across the building. We must be
disciples like Dorcas.
Dorcas did not wait to be asked, but did what she could,
when she could, for whom she could.
This is the most important lesson in this text. Was Dorcas
simply the tool of the Joppa Church of Christ’s garment making
ministry? No. The text says she was full of good works, not that
she was part of a church organized ministry. This was her work.
The headquarters was her home, not the church building. The
oversight was her own, not the elders. While caring for Christian
widows is a legitimate work for the church (Acts
6:1-6), Dorcas was working on her own.
Too often we Christians see things that need to be done and
wonder when the elders are going to do something about it. After
all, they are our leaders, shouldn’t they head up some kind of
church work to accomplish these things? We might even go to them
and give them our great ideas. Most of the time, they will let us
down and not do anything about it. Do you know why? Because like
Dorcas, they cannot do everything either. Do you remember what
happened in Acts 6:1-6?
The brethren came to the apostles saying the Hellenistic widows
were not being taken care of. What did the apostles say? “Our
hands are already full with other work. Find other men in the
congregation to take care of this.” So what do we do next? If
the elders won’t take care of the work, we tell others and hope
that someone will do something. Why not us? Why not you? Why not
stop waiting for others and start being a disciple like Dorcas?
You must serve, doing what you can, when you can, for whom you
can. We must be disciples like Dorcas.
What we learn from the New Testament and stories like
Dorcas’ is that the great amount of work done by the early
church was not accomplished by the organized plan of local
congregations. The greatest amount of the work was done by
hard-working, devoted disciples who did not wait to be asked but
simply looked for how they could use their abilities to serve
others and serve God. The big question for you now is, “Are you
a disciple like Dorcas?”
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ