Lessons from Dorcas

One of the first Bible stories that I remember learning when I was a child was the story of Dorcas. The lesson I remember was that Dorcas sewed clothes to help the needy. She used her skill as a seamstress to serve others because she loved the Lord. This is an important lesson, but I think there are a few more that we as adults can glean from this story. Let’s review Dorcas’ story.

In Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:36-42)(NIV)

Notice that Dorcas never said a word in this passage, actually she was dead for most of it. We know her because of her actions. Her deeds were her legacy. She was called a disciple, and it says she was always doing good. When she died, she was mourned by the recipients of her deeds. The mourners were widows, those that could not help themselves.

It is probably safe to assume that Dorcas had money if she was able to buy the material to sew robes and other garments to give away. There were no Singer sewing machines back then. Oh, the time Dorcas must have put in sewing each garment by hand. Each piece would have been valuable if she had chosen to sell them. Maybe she had been a seamstress for hire in her earlier years. Probably much of her sewing time was spent alone, when she could have been down by the well, chatting with her friends.

It is believed by scholars that what the widows had were tunics that were worn next to the skin and cloaks that were made from animal skins, wool or goat, and camel hair. Can you imagine how those widows felt each time they put on their new tunics? How the crisp and fresh the material must have felt to their skin? They had lost their provider and could no longer afford new things for themselves. Wearing the outer cloaks gave them a sense of dignity. They held their head a little higher as they pulled the cloak around themselves.

I also wonder how many stories Dorcas heard as she delivered the garments. How much loneliness did she relieve?  Did she go in and sit with the widows and listen for a while? Did she tell them she understood and that they were not alone? Did she tell them that she sewed for her God and that he loved them too? Would they have mourned so deeply if all she had given them was clothes?

The scripture says that when Peter raised Dorcas from the dead that he gave her back to her friends. The news that she was alive became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Dorcas used her talent, gave what she had to give, and God gave her life. Dorcas did what she could then God did what he could. She did her best and God did the rest resulting in the salvation of many.

So, our lessons from Dorcas are to…

  • Use the skill that God gave us.
  • Do quality work
  • Serve others
  • Do our deeds for the Lord
  • Be an example of God’s love and leave the rest up to him.

Sue Potts

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