When considering women in the Bible who lived a life of integrity, bravery, or risked their life for another, one may not think of Dorcas.

            We find Dorcas wedged in the book of Acts between Saul’s conversion and dramatic over the wall escape and Cornelius’s vision.  This is part of the slow shift with the Gentile inclusion into God’s people and shifting the focus from who they were, Jewish, to whom God was calling, a greater nation, which included everyone who believed. Yes, we find Dorcas, right between Saul and Peter, including the Gentiles and stepping back from favoritism. (Acts 9:34-36)

            Dorcas only gets 189 words, but those few words show us the heart of a very intentional woman.

“ Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, (which translated into Greek means Dorcas). She was rich in acts of kindness and charity which she continually did. During that time it happened that she became sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upstairs room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Come to us without delay.” So Peter got up [at once] and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upstairs room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing [him] all the tunics and robes that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out [of the room] and knelt down and prayed; then 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 helped her up; and then he called in the saints (God’s people) and the widows, and he presented her [to them] alive.” (Amplified)

            Dorcas was known both Greeks and the Jews as Luke mentions both of her names: Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek. We see her sandwiched in between two major eye openers that God shows no favoritism, and yet Dorcas was doing that already. By mentioning her name in both languages, this leads us to see that both Greeks and Aramaic families were being loved on, cared for and provided for. It doesn’t really specifically tell us what she was doing in the first part, simply says “was rich in acts of kindness and charity which she continually did.” Some versions use the word “always”. It’s not safe to use the word “always” as it tends to be used as hyperbole, but if Luke used it, I could guess it’s because it was true. Always is very definitive. It means, always, consistently, reliable, continually, time after time and as sure as the sun is going to come up tomorrow. Dorcas was ALWAYS going to be doing good and helping the poor. We don’t know where Dorcas lived, we don’t know what she did for a living, or how she supported herself. That’s not included in the information. That leads us to believe Dorcas and poor were not in the same sentence except to compare.  Dorcas was always, doing good and helping the poor. She was intentional about her actions, but we find out how intentional she was later on in the reading. The way that Dorcas showed her intentionality is best described by Luke as he shares what the people did when Peter came upon being summoned that she was ill. It doesn’t seem the community of believers that Dorcas was a part of even considered her being healed, or after she died, raised from the dead. They wanted Peter to be a part of their mourning. Part of mourning often involves sharing the gifts that we have been given by the one who has left us. A few weeks ago, I was at a celebration service for a good friend and former pastors wife when I was a kid. The church pews were lined with the quilts she had made. We looked at them, leaned back on them and felt a bit of June still with us as we saw the things she had made while living. Each quilt had meaning, specific to those she was making it for, and you knew it was prayed over while she quilted.

Luke tells us the people who were mourning were “the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing [him] all the tunics and robes that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.”  This is where the intentionality of Dorcas comes into play. This is where I sit up straighter and in my heart think, I want to be like her. She knew the people. She knew the sizes. She knew the needs. Dorcas didn’t just make a shirt, robe, or piece of clothing and say, “good luck, if it fits you and sorry it has three arm holes, and is too long, but it’s a shirt.” No!  Dorcas knew the people she was “always doing good” for and knew what they needed. She knew their size. She knew if they had long arms or short legs. Dorcas was intentional by knowing what the need was. Otherwise, people may have just said, “She’s gone! I don’t have to wear that shirt around her anymore that doesn’t fit, its scratchy and is headed for Goodwill.”

People wanted Peter to see what she had done for them. Dorcas lived an intentional life of always doing good, but doing good where good was needed and where that “doing good” would actually do good.

I have spent many hours with friends in the challenges that life. When people find out someone is struggling, they want to do something. I call it the “get out of jail free” card. Bring a casserole! What if a casserole isn’t what the need is? What if, the lawn needs mowing? What if the mortgage needs to be paid? What if the kids orthodontist bill just came due? I have accepted many pots of food at the door of someone’s house for them. Part of me wanted to say, “I wish you would have called and asked. We have some big needs, and it’s not donuts, cake or hot dish”.

Dorcas knew what the need was because she was involved in their life. She was in the homes of the community both Jews and Greeks, and she met the needs because the need existed.

Philippians 2:4 reminds us “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  We know our own interests! Yet how much time do we take, to really discover the needs, or interests of another? Be intentional. Think like Dorcas. It’s not just about being rich in kindness and charity, it’s about knowing what is needed and what will enrich. We can be kind and be inconsiderate as we give something that isn’t needed. Wisdom goes looking into the interests of others, so the richness, kindness and acts of charity, are a welcome relief to the hearts of those who receive them.

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