We learned from this story that life for widows during Bible times was pretty tough. When a husband died, his wife and children were left with no income—there was no one to provide housing, food, clothing and money. On top of that they were probably lonely. But one widow named Dorcas (also called Tabitha) looked beyond her own situation to help others in their time of need. 

Dorcas

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Acts 9:36-43

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 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!”

39 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.

40 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. 41 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. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

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First, let me set the scene by talking about Joppa. Joppa is the present-day Jaffa (Yafo), Israel, a port city, where a lot of trade still takes place today because of it’s ideal location for boats on Mediterranean Sea. Nearly all the families living in Joppa would depend upon the sea for jobs. Working on the sea was dangerous and ships would often be torn to pieces on the rocks. History records bodies of seamen washing up on the shore—leaving their families in distress. 

Joppaimage source

What made Dorcas unique? (Describe her)

  • She was a widow. The difficult experience of losing her husband uniquely prepared her for the purpose God had for her. As a widow herself, she could relate to other widows and their great loss. 
  • She was wealthy. We know that she must have been very weathly to be able to provide help when she herself was widow. Instead of crawling into a hole and having a pity party, she looked outside of herself to see that there were others in even greater need. And, she didn’t just throw money at the problem, paying others to make make the garments. She lovingly sewed them herself. 
  • She served God with her sewing needle. In God’s kingdom, we are called to be servants. Not all of us are public speakers or singers. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being “there” for someone or helping those we encounter with their difficult situations. Dorcas knew how to sew and she used this skill to glorify God. 
  • Dorcas is a prime example of Christian faith in action. Instead of just telling widows that God loved them, she SHOWED them. She put God’s love into action by meeting the physical needs of the other widows.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”Matthew 25:35-36 ” link=”” color=”#e27982″ class=”” size=”14″]  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ [/pullquote]

How do you think it made the poor to feel after they had a new garment of fine cloth?Instead of old tunics, dirty and full of holes, they looked presentable, respectful. They probably held their head higher and felt more confident. Dorcas probably also supplied baby clothes, sandals, robes and cloaks.

  • Dorcas made a huge impact in her community. Those that she had helped were heartbroken when she died. This shows us that she not only made garments for them and sent them on their way. Instead, she invited them into her home, shared meals and made them part of her community. 
  • She was brought back to life by Paul. I don’t know about you, but I know of VERY few people who have been brought back from the dead. But this miracle wasn’t just for her or her friends. It served a great purpose because this miracle helped more people believe in Jesus. The Bible tells us that “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”

What was Dorcas’ purpose?

To bring God glory and to honor Him.

Did she allow God to fill her for His purpose? Yes, Dorcas was truly God’s vessel, pouring out what He gave her to love others.

Explain how she was used for His purpose.

  • Served God with her sewing needle. She used the skills and resources God had given her.
  • Showed love in a practical way—making clothing for the poor.
  • Her miracle helped more people believe in Jesus.
  • Inspired Dorcas Sewing Society.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#e27982″ class=”” size=”14″]What is the Dorcas Sewing Society? A group of people, usually in a church who provide clothing to the poor. These groups were most popular in the 1800s, but there are still groups today continuing Dorcas’ mission of caring for those in need.[/pullquote]

Key Scripture: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 

COMMENT: Dorcas knew how to sew, and she used this skill to glorify God. What skills, talents or resources might you have that God can use to bless others?

3 thoughts on “Dorcas-sewing for the needy

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