Dorcas – Acts of charity

‘It’s works that count alongside our words’ – that’s a conclusion we may draw from the life of Dorcas. Joppa is the place to which Jonah fled from God,(1) but it’s also in this place where we find Dorcas. From her life we can learn some of the ways in which a Christian woman can glorify God. Dorcas gave her treasure, time and talents to serve God and His people.

Her treasure

Dorcas was not a famous celebrity. Was she single or married, rich or poor? We don’t know. But we are told by Luke that she was a disciple full of good works and acts of charity.(2) The evidence is clear that she sacrificed her own resources for the betterment of others. In the Old Testament, God commanded His people, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’(3)

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will repay him for his deed.

Scripture says that Blessed is the one who considers the poor!(5) But this would become useless if we do it with wrong motives. During His ministry on earth, Jesus warned His disciples, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them …” And then He instructed them, “when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”(6) This is God’s way of helping others and it’s what Dorcas did. She helped others without using a trumpet, and without strings attached. Will we do the same to give glory to God?(7)

Her time

Dorcas didn’t have the advantage of a sewing machine as we do today; we can produce multiple products and with less intensive labour in a short time. She just used her hands to do the work. One writer says, ‘In those days, ordering and purchasing materials, cutting, assembling, fitting, altering and sewing garments, cloaks and robes by hand were tedious and labour-intensive endeavors’ (8). No doubt, Dorcas worked even into the night to get the work done.(9) Today, there are people who work overtime intentionally to enhance their income. But Dorcas willingly spent a lot of time for the betterment of others! I’m sure Peter’s heart was moved when the widows showed him Dorcas’s work.

Christian women can use their time to do benevolent acts for the good of others. They may set a time to teach young children about God’s goodness, advise biblically other young sisters and pray for their welfare, cooperate in the church hall cleaning and do practical things to benefit others’ lives. One thing we have been able to offer at times (since we are both graduate teachers) is free education assistance for young children whose parents may not be financially able to avail of the full state system (which is parent-funded in our country). These are just a few of the good things sisters can perform to make their light shine! We can always see the Lord, when He was here on earth, doing good deeds to others.(10) He did not waste His time. And God will be glorified if we give our precious time to help others.

Her talent

Dorcas used her talent to show compassion to others.(11) She is an example to us to use our talents: whether sewing, gardening, baking, cooking, making music, caring for the sick or looking after children. If we faithfully do it, God will be pleased.(12) And since Dorcas was well-known in Joppa as a result of all the good things she did, many believed in the Lord when Peter raised her to life again.(13) In other words, her good deeds created an opportunity for effective Gospel-preaching that resulted in the salvation of others.(14) Like Dorcas, we can use our talent or gift to serve others. It doesn’t matter how many abilities you have; the important thing is that you use them for God’s glory.

We can imagine that Dorcas got tired and weary in her work, but she kept going to please the Lord. Paul writes: Let us not grow weary of doing good … So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.(15) In the same way, Christian women today can use their treasure, their time and their talents to serve God.

References: (1) Jonah 1:3 (2) Acts 9:36 (3) Deut. 15:11 (4) Prov. 19:17 (5) Ps. 41:1 (6) Mat. 6:1-4 (7) Mat. 5:16 (8) Laurel Meyer, (9) Prov. 31:18 (10) Acts 10:38 (11) Acts 9:39 (12) Heb. 13:16 (13) Acts 9:37-42 (14) Rom. 10:14-15 (15) Gal. 6:9-10

Geralde & Linnie Mag-usara, Davao, Philippines

Bible quotations from ESV