We're shifting gears this week. Last week's study was full of betrayals and bloodshed. We'll leave that behind us now, but this is a startling study by today's terms. This week's study is an inspiring one . . . we sometimes find it difficult to serve Christ with our lives; this lady served Him with two lives! Seriously!
Let's dive in!
Some of us may have studied this woman before in other settings; her name is Tabitha in the Hebrew, but in the Greek language, she was known as Dorcas. She must have been a beautiful woman, for her nickname was "Gazelle," a lovely, graceful animal with lustrous eyes. She lived in Joppa, a town about thirty-five miles from Jerusalem that was mentioned when Solomon was receiving timber for the Temple. Joppa was a seaport that his timber came into -- it also was the seaport that Jonah came out of . . . when he was running to catch a boat going to Tarshish.
We don't know a lot about Tabitha (Dorcas), because the Bible doesn't tell us her age, or if she was a widow, or a married woman. What we know about is her work -- her life of service to Christ speaks volumes about her. Have you noticed that Jesus and the New Testament church leaders accorded women much more special status than the Old Testament leaders? They accompanied Him on his journeys, hosted Him in their homes, and were financial donors, too. There were women in attendance when He hung on the cross, and also women were the first witnesses of the resurrection. As we will see when we study more of the New Testament women, they were very involved in the expansion of the church.
Let's see what Dorcas has to tell us about living a life (or two) devoted to Christ's service.
First, Dorcas was a disciple. In fact, she is the only woman in the New Testament that is identified as "a disciple." Pretty amazing, huh? We don't see that term used for Mary, Martha, Priscilla, or any other woman. So, she must have been particularly faithful in her following of Christ.
A disciple would be a learner, a follower, and someone who was determined to be like his or her teacher or mentor.
A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained
will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)
I guess there is no higher compliment for any of us here on earth, than to be told, "You act just like Jesus." But that could be said of Dorcas. She had a heart full of compassion, just as Christ did.
When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they
were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew
Next we see that Dorcas put her compassion to work -- she was a doer, not just a talker. The needs of people moved her to respond and meet those needs. She served others and people knew that it was because of her Redeemer, Jesus. She obviously was a hard worker -- the women assembled to prepare her body for burial showed Peter all the things that Dorcas had sewed for them. The words used there include the softer undergarments, as well as the sturdy outer garments that the women wore. Dorcas was "tuned in" to the needs of those around her.
The Bible says that she was "always" doing good deeds. Some translations say, "full of good works" instead. I guess in their time as well as ours, there are more people filled with words than there are people filled with works . . . but when others looked at Dorcas' life, they saw it overflowing with good deeds and helpfulness.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially
to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
Dorcas seems to be a great example of what Paul was talking about in I Timothy:
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with
braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds,
appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (I Timothy 2:9-10)
The Bible doesn't mention that she was beautiful because she dressed well, or wore fine clothing. Nor does it say that she was known for jewels, gold, or fancy headdress. It was what she did that made her beautiful . . . it was the fruit of compassion that was so easily seen in her life. She may not have done anything heroic like some of the women we will study. But she served her Savior by ministering to others. She did her good deeds in a quiet, unassuming way, and the people she helped knew that she had given her life to Christ -- this was her way of serving Him.
By serving Him in this way, she could help the hurting. Many in Joppa were hurting and hopeless. We've talked about how widows and the poor did not have the resources available in our time. No Social Security, no pension from their husband's retirement. If they received help, it was from their family or from the church. Our verses (36) tell us that Dorcas was busy "helping the poor." She was a perfect example of the woman in Proverbs 31:
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (v 19-20)
And, she was letting her light shine:
....Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and
praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Dorcas instinctively knew that small things done with great love can change things. And she knew that as she served others, the lost would be drawn to her Savior.
We'll learn more from Dorcas next time.....hope you will join us!