Regular Christians (Part 1): Dorcas

Regular Christians

Dorcas was one who used her abilities to help others. However, we are not introduced to her in the Scriptures until after she passed away.

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, ‘Do not delay in coming to us.’ So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive” (Acts 9:36-41).

When Peter arrived to the place where Dorcas’ body had been laid, he was shown the garments that she had made while she was alive (Acts 9:39). Luke noted that it was the widows who did this, suggesting that she may have been making these garments for them. Regardless of who received these garments from Dorcas, the text implies that she made these for others as part of the “deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did” (Acts 9:36). This was how she was remembered, indicating that it was something that she did consistently.

This description of Dorcas is reminiscent of the virtuous woman from the book of Proverbs. That woman was described as one who “looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight” (Proverbs 31:13). “She makes coverings for herself” and “makes linen garments” (Proverbs 31:22, 24), all while “[extending] her hand to the poor” and “[stretching] out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20). Dorcas was like this; she was busy making clothing while being engaged in good deeds to help those in need around her.

When it comes to helping others, we often think of money – especially giving money to the needy. This is certainly one way to offer assistance (cf. Acts 3:1-5). However, there are other ways we can help. The following are a few examples:

  • Like Dorcas, we may be able to make clothes. Though this skill is not as common today as it was during Bible times, it can still be done and the garments produced can be a real help to those who receive them. But besides clothes, nearly anything that can be made with our hands could be used to help someone in need.
  • Perhaps we can cook and are able to provide a meal to someone who is sick, caring for a loved one, mourning a family member’s passing, or is facing financial hardship.
  • Maybe we have the ability to watch someone’s children while they care for a sick family member or have to work extra hours to get through a period of financial hardship. People in our society regularly pay for child care and babysitters. To be able to do this at no cost for someone who does not have the means to pay for it is an enormous help, especially when the help is coming from brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Some have the skills, tools, and knowledge to be able to make repairs around the house or to a vehicle. This ability can be used to help others as well when they are not able to make necessary repairs themselves and would have difficulty paying a professional to do it.

The list above is certainly not exhaustive. We need to ask ourselves: What are we, as individuals, able to do? What are we good at? Each of us have abilities that we can use to help others. Some abilities are more obviously helpful than others; but if we look for ways we can help, we will find opportunities to use these skills that we have for good.

Dorcas had a talent for making clothes. We do not know if she was more skilled at this than everyone else because the Scriptures do not tell us that. Yet whether she was the most skilled or not is irrelevant. We do not need to look for what we can do better than everyone else; we just need to look for what we can do and then use those abilities to do good to those around us.

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  1. Nelson N. says

    Excellent topic, thank you very much.