The story of Dorcas in the Bible is short but it is packed with encouragement, inspiration, and challenge. Dorcas’ qualities and the way she lived her life offers many lessons for us to apply to our own lives.
If you are familiar with the idea of Dorcas Ministry or community services ministry, then you have already met the legacy of this wonderful heroine from Scripture. Let’s dig into her story!
Where is the story of Dorcas in the Bible?
The story of Dorcas can be found in Acts 9:36-42. This story is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.
The story of Tabitha in the Bible
Dorcas was also called Tabitha. She lived in Joppa. After Jesus left, the apostles started to set the world on fire by sharing the gospel everywhere it was possible to do so.
Thousands and thousands of people joined the church. People from all walks of life. Young and old. Rich and poor. Educated and illiterate. Married and single. Widowed and orphaned.
Those who led the church began to mobilize the resources to help those who were in need. Many people rose to the challenge by using their own money, resources, and time to minister.
Dorcas was one of those women. She made clothing for the widows.
We are not told exactly how, but Dorcas became ill and died. The people, especially the widows, were so heart-broken that they could not move on. Against Jewish custom, they washed her body and placed her in an upstairs room.
They then sent to call Peter who was in a neighboring town called Lydda. When Peter arrived, he turned up to see women weeping and wailing and holding their Dorcas-made clothing out to show him.
Peter sent them all out. When he was alone with Dorcas’ body, he got down on his knees beside her bed and prayed. When he opened his eyes, he turned to the dead body and said “Tabitha, get up”.
Dorcas opened her eyes. She turned her head, saw Peter, and sat up. Peter helped her to stand up and brought her to anxious people waiting outside the room.
The news of Dorcas’ resurrection became breaking news in Joppa. Many people believed because of her story.
Characteristics of Dorcas in the Bible
Dorcas is one of the outstanding women of faith in the Bible. Just a few verses in Scripture are dedicated to her story but it is quite a power-packed one.
What are the qualities of Dorcas that made her such a powerful Biblical figure?
Dorcas was a disciple of Jesus
By now Jesus had long been risen from the dead, his disciples were preaching and teaching all over Palestine and beyond.
People were coming to believe in Jesus and were also following His teachings.
Dorcas became one such woman. The word disciple that was used to describe her translates as female disciple. This means she was a follower of Jesus. Today, we would just call her a Christian woman.
Dorcas was a skilled seamstress
Scripture tells us that Dorcas made tunics and garments for the widows. Tunics were the underwear of the time and garments were whatever was worn over tunics.
Making clothing was ALOT of work back then. We are not talking about the age of machines here. Most times thread and fabric were hand-made.
But Dorcas was skilled at this.
Dorcas had practical faith
There are many people who believe God but their faith never goes further than confessing it with words.
That was not Dorcas. We know she was a disciple. But we also see that her faith in God moved her to use her gifts to help those who were in need in her immediate surroundings.
And this is exactly what Jesus calls us to do.
Dorcas had a kind, compassionate heart
Dorcas lived at a time when poverty was at an all time high. The economic systems abused the poor. It was bad. Really bad.
Dorcas was touched by the suffering and needs of others just like Jesus was:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
Dorcas was faithful in working for the welfare of others. She ministered to the marginalized and the ostracized, because that’s the category widows would fall into.
There is no record of the widows paying for these clothes but I am guessing they wouldn’t have had the money anyway.
Yet, Dorcas worked to ensure that these vulnerable women would have a basic need met.
Dorcas was consistent, committed and dependable
The Bible says Dorcas did good works of charity continually. A picture of consistency is presented in the word continually.
It means that Dorcas made clothing and carried out whatever other welfare activities she did over and over and over. Again and again and again.
People could depend on her to come through for them, to fulfill a need, to solve a problem. She showed up in a way that made people feel safe with her.
Dorcas was hardworking and diligent
Making clothing for people by hand could not have been easy work. But Dorcas stuck with it. I imagine she spent quite a number of hours spinning and sewing.
She spent alot of time and energy, day in, day out doing this work of charity.
Lessons from the story of Dorcas in the Bible
But she cared about real people with real problems and was instrumental in solving some of their real dilemmas. She could be the first Mother Teresa described in Scripture.
What can we learn from the story of Dorcas in the Bible?
Don’t just wish to make a difference; do it
So so so many women have a deep desire to help people. Maybe you are one of them on whose heart God has placed a burning desire to help a certain set of people.
Teen moms. Single mothers. Single fathers. Sexual abuse victims. People struggling with addiction. Single women. Divorced women. The illiterate. The hungry. The rich but miserable. Drug addicts.
Something must be coming to your mind now.
Take a leaf from Dorcas’ book. Don’t just wish to make a difference. If God has put this desire in your heart, He expects you to act on it.
You’re probably wondering where to start. Well, I’m glad you asked. My next few points will answer your question.
You have something to offer, no matter where you are in life
Once you have lived a little, you can help someone. Maybe not with money, food, clothing and housing. But, a listening ear can save a life.
Good advice can give a brand new direction to a life headed down the wrong path.
A life well-lived can become the well needed role model that an ambitious young girl without parents needs to emulate.
Dorcas had sewing and she used that to serve. She probably wasn’t the best at it. But those who desperately needed those clothes didn’t care. She was solving their problems and serving them from a heart full of love.
So, what has God gifted you with? Start serving with that. I promise, whatever it is, there is a place for your gifts.
How can you serve? Who will you serve?
Serve in an area of need
If you are still confused about the who and how and where of serving, here is something to consider.
What is an area of great need in your community? Who are the people that fall into this category of need? What is it that they need? Where can you find resources to help cater to that need?
For Dorcas, the who were the widows, the what were the clothing, and the how was her sewing skills.
She didn’t have to travel the seas to find people in need. She just looked over her fence.
I guarantee she didn’t have to advertise her ministry too much after making outfits for the first few widows.
Why? Because news gets around quickly when people are getting much needed free help.
Suppose you notice that there are many single mothers who are struggling with food. How can you find a food pantry or lobby some business owners for gift cards?
What if there are too many young girls getting pregnant in your community? Who can you ask to help you set up a safety net for these girls to dream and grow?
Look, if you really want to make a difference, you have to take the first step towards something.
God is all about saving people’s lives. Whatever you do towards that end, He will orchestrate the pieces to get you what you need.
Your existence should add value to the lives of those around you
I don’t gamble but I would bet that the widows were broken over Dorcas’ death because of more than just clothing.
They showed Peter the clothing because of what they represented.
Let me explain.
In these times, widows were among the marginalized and ostracized in society. They were pretty much invisible.
When Dorcas made these custom outfits for each of them, they felt seen, heard, valued, loved, appreciated.
Can you imagine how this made them feel?
Dorcas added such value to their existence that they felt human again.
Whose life are you adding value to on a daily basis? If you’re a mom and wife, you’re probably thinking about your spouse and kids.
That’s great. God is holding you accountable for your immediate family first.
But question: is your family the only beneficiary of all the gold inside of you?
I encourage you to think about other ways you can show up for other people in ways that will help them to know the love of Jesus.
If this season of your life makes it hard to pour into to others, start talking with God about how He wants you to serve in your next season.
Build a legacy while you have time
Question: Would your community miss you if you died?
Jewish funeral practices of the time allowed for professional mourners to be hired but this did not seem necessary for Dorcas.
When Dorcas died, the widows especially were beside themselves with grief. They wailed and wept loudly.
The pain and grief they expressed tells us that the loss they felt for Dorcas was deep and painful. Clearly her ministry in their lives was saturated with godly love and sincere friendship.
As I said before, the clothing Dorcas made was more than just clothing. It was the relationships she built that added value.
She did all this while she was living. If she was never raised from the dead, her legacy would have been set.
And it would have been a rich one. She would have been remembered for how she loved people unconditionally and how she served them unselfishly.
What do you want to be remembered for? What are you doing about it right now?
Be consistent when you serve
One of the characteristics of Dorcas that the Scripture explicitly states is that she did acts of kindness continually.
She was consistent in showing up. There is alot of value in consistency.
Consistency allows people to be able to trust you. It makes people feel safe with you. It tells people that you are dedicated and committed to what you offer and those you serve. It builds your reputation.
Do you know what can happen when all these things can be said about you?
Here goes my next point…
God will work miracles in your life when you serve with your heart
When Dorcas died, many suffering people were hurt. This was a great loss to them.
Dorcas had added so much value to their lives that a critical piece of their existence would have been missing.
They didn’t do the usual burial rites that Jewish practice required. She should have been buried the same day. Instead, they washed her body and put it in the upper room and sent for Peter.
When Peter arrived and looked at the wailing widows, he knew what he needed to do.
Dorcas got a miracle. What a blessing to have been given a second opportunity of living!
But this happened because of what she had been doing with her life. It was the kind of service she was giving and the life she was living that activated that miracle in her life.
Nobody would think to call Peter if she wasn’t so valuable and impactful in her community.
I have found that when you are all about living your life for others, your life becomes rich with miracles, especially miracles of provision.
Believe me when I tell you that if you want to start a ministry and you have no money, just start serving.
Miracles will happen!!!
All things work for our good and the good of others too
As believers, we are not exempt from the impact of sin.
When people like Dorcas die, we often want to question the wisdom of God but we know that God’s wisdom is beyond question.
It takes faith to believe that.
What was a dreadful, horrible event was turned right around when God showed up through Peter.
When Dorcas was raised from the dead, two things happened.
First, her ministry was restored and she could continue serving her people.
Second, and most glorious, her story blew a hole in the plan of the enemy. Her resurrection made many people come to believe in Jesus.
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 9:41-42
God can really use any dreadful thing that happened to you and make it a golden opportunity to save others.
The significance of the story of Dorcas in the Bible
Dorcas’ story is one of the most significant because it shows us in living color what it means to follow Christ and live out our faith in meaningful, practical ways.
The spirit of Dorcas lives on in any ministry that caters to the vulnerable, the needy, and the marginalized of society.
These ministries reach people the way Jesus did it. He mingled with people, made friends with them, catered to their needs and then He encouraged them to follow him.
And when they followed him he encouraged them to reach back and help others.
FAQs about the story of Dorcas in the Bible
Here are a few more fun facts about Dorcas to sweeten the pot.
What is the Biblical meaning of Dorcas?
The name Dorcas means gazelle or deer. She was also known as Tabitha which is an Aramaic name and has the very same meaning.
Was Dorcas married?
The Bible does not comment on Dorcas’ marital status. Some speculate that she was probably a widow but we cannot know for sure because Scripture doesn’t tell us.
What was Dorcas’ ministry?
Dorcas made clothing for the widows in her community. That the Bible states explicitly but chances are, she did other things too. Scripture says
…she was always doing good and helping the poor. Acts 9:36
The poor included the fatherless, people with disabilities, widows etc. They had many types of needs.
Dorcas’ death in the Bible
Dorcas died because she was sick. The Bible doesn’t tell us what type of sickness. But Peter, through the power of God, raised her from the dead.
Final words about Dorcas in the Bible
The life of Dorcas really offers us a challenge to get going with serving others. As we grow in faith, we can uplevel our faith even more by helping those who are in need.
Dorcas’ qualities of consistency, commitment, and self-lessness increased her value in her community.
Want to be successful in life and your Christian walk? Start here. Start serving people at the level of their needs.