“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity. About that time she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who urged him, ‘Don’t delay in coming with us.’ Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. He called the saints and widows and presented her alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” –Acts 9:36-42
Tabitha is one of the many saints in Scripture whose story is both brief and powerful. When I open my Bible to the book of Acts and read of her testimony, I cannot help but want to know her more. I wish I could go back in time and chat with her over coffee (or whatever beverage was common), learn more of her benevolent heart and soak up her words of wisdom. I suspect I’ll have plenty of time for that when I get to heaven! But for now, I am grateful for her small, yet inspiring imprint in the Word.
Tabitha, a Disciple and True Philanthropist
“She was always doing good works and acts of charity…”
Always. That holds some weight. Tabitha continuously poured into the lives of those around her, working with her hands to sew clothing and doing acts of charity. Her heart for the widowed, poor and marginalized became a living testimony of the love of Jesus Christ whereupon her untimely death left a great hole among the community of Joppa.
Scripture reminds us again and again to heed the cause of the needy:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” –James 1:27
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” –Psalm 68:5
This is true Christian philanthropy. Tabitha saw the needs that were around her and with an obedient heart, addressed them according to her unique abilities and resources. We may not possess the ability to sew clothing as she had done, but as followers of Christ we are commanded, qualified and able to assist however and wherever the Spirit leads us. What a gift this is to share with others! Even if what we have to offer are merely handfuls of love and service from our broken, imperfect selves, it can bless another in ways we never imagined.
Because of Tabitha’s resurrection, many came to know the Lord as their Savior. Peter didn’t bring her to life for her own sake, but for the sake of others to continue to experience the power, faithfulness and refuge found in Christ Jesus. And for that, she was able to continue her ministry serving those in need. I am grateful for stories like these, for I know how much I need them. To be challenged by these forerunning saints to better live out the gospel and be a better “imitator of Christ.” To be reminded of His sovereignty over this vast universe and how big He really is. To embrace hope amidst our suffering, sickness and persecution. To be more like Tabitha, faithful for good works and attending the cause of the needy, for as long as we are given breath on this earth.
Join a Men’s or Women’s Fall Bible Study
Looking for a place to learn about God or add community to your life? Sign up for a fall Bible study! Band of Brothers, our men’s group, will be learning what it really means to live a godly life (spoiler: thanks to Jesus, you already have everything you need) in a study called “Sinner and Saint.” Women in the Word, our women’s group, will be talking about how to love others and walk with Jesus in our complicated, fast-paced world with a study called “Lavish Love.” Follow the links to sign up today.