Dorcas lived in Joppa a port on looking the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa is a coastal region and probably the people living in Joppa were from different places. Now, why was she called Tabitha and also Dorcas? Dorcas is a Greek name whereas Tabitha is a Hebrew name. To me it appears interesting that she has two names from different languages, perhaps a clear indication of the different people living in her neighborhood. But I get even a deeper meaning because her name is connected to her service. Now, remember she was staying in a cosmopolitan community – a community with different kinds of people.
Serving People without Boundaries
To Greeks, she would freely associate or relate with them because of her name Dorcas. When it came to the Hebrews she would also freely associate or relate with them because of her name Tabitha. The message is, are you freely relating with people or are there people you cannot associate with because of a certain character? Remember Dorcas is a figure of service in the Bible. She is portrayed as a figure to show how service should look like. Just like Eve, who was Adam’s helper, Dorcas is serving the people of Joppa, and having one name would jeopardize her service. I am not advocating multiple names, but names stand for identity or character. To Dorcas, she could relate well with Greeks and Hebrews without any boundaries, yet for us today, we are at times caught in the foolishness of giving preferences to those who sound like they come from our village. The lesson here is, we should not be limited on whom we should associate with because of some character we/they have. We should serve all people regardless of their background. For Dorcas she was not confined to a certain group of people. So should we be in our service.
Names Have Meaning: From Simon to Peter
Let us look at Peter. When Jesus called him, his name was Simon. Now the name Simon means heard of God or listening. In other translations it means reed-like or shaky. Look at the character of Peter, he was reed-like. He was shaky, not sure. At one point he is telling Jesus I will not leave you, I better die with you, the next minute he is saying, “I do not know that man.” But in the process he was renamed Peter. Peter means Petros and Petros means small rocks/cephas which means rock. You can remember Jesus telling Peter; upon this rock I will establish my church and sure he was establishing the church when he was raising the dead like Dorcas. So, a name in the Bible is not just an Odhiambo Nyambura, kind of thing. It represents character. Therefore, Dorcas is a figure of service.
Dorcas was Single
I hope by now you have realized that the details of her husband or family are not given. You see, if we talk of her husband and her family, someone would say, but I am single, I cannot be a Dorcas. Therefore, the Bible has gone silent on these details so that all of us, young men and women, married or not can feel the challenge to be a Dorcas. If the details of her husband were given, then some would say, ‘but for her, she had a husband who was helping her’. Therefore, to some point she is portrayed as a widow. This is because family is not an excuse to serving God, not even anything else like money or good clothes. This means even at the lowest point in our lives, we have no excuse to serve God. Paul served him in prison by writing letters and, even though he had a thorn in the fresh, still he served.
Christianity Is Not a Vaccination against Problems
Dorcas was a good woman and also a believer. However, problems also came to her, she became sick and even died. But do you know Christianity is not a vaccination against problems? Problems will still come, but his grace is sufficient. Some people think that when they get born again, no problem will come near them or because they go for missions they will not have problems. Problems will come, but his grace will be sufficient. You remember the case of Jesus the savior who died on the cross yet he committed no sin?
The Works of Dorcas Did
Dorcas used to make clothes. Now, it is not just another service of sewing and knitting clothes for people. Clothes in this case, or coats for that matter, represents a covering. Now, this is how we should be to other people as we serve them. We should cover them with love. If you are a leader and your fellow leader is absent, rush and cover up for him/her. Stand in the gap and make a cover like Dorcas. To the other people we should offer a cover of encouragement, cover up sins through love and cover others by warning or protecting them from danger. Therefore, you may not be a garment maker like Dorcas but in everything you do, direct it towards helping others feel the warmth of Christ.
Remember the instance of God making clothes for Adam and Eve as a cover? It is the same message here. But more deeply, Dorcas making garments represents the Christ we should preach to all intending to cover a multitude of sins. This is because when the world does not have Christ, it is naked. The world is in the cold. Just like someone without clothes would feel cold and be naked, it is the same to Dorcas who sewed clothes for others to make them feel the warmth. Christians are called to be the Dorcas of today and make others feel the warmth of the love of Christ.
Weaving and Knitting
You need to realize that Dorcas was using a simple art or skill to make a tremendous impact. She could just pick a knitting needle or stitch and then knit a coat or garment using knitting wool and give it to someone. Very simple! Now, she did not start saying, how I wish I knew how to sing. She also did not say I wish I could preach like Peter or any other disciple. She just looked into her herself, found a skill of knitting garments and then started serving. Sadly, many people today look at the next person holding the microphone and say, I wish I had such a voice, I wish I had such confidence. Not knowing, the idea is not about wishing, it is about doing.
Now the knitting is a symbolic message again here that she would find ‘strings’ and combine them to make something from them. She would bring them together and knit them. How many times do we go out there and our work is just causing disagreements between people, causing pain and causing people to draw away from Christ. The strings represent your friends and people around you. Your work is to ensure they are in harmony.
Many times we think going for crusades is more important than helping someone who has upkeep need. It is all the same. You just need to know, you gifting. Remember Peter was very powerful but did not knit anything as per the records. Dorcas also did not do like Peter, she just did what she could do best. It is therefore a clarion call to you today to realize your talent, your area of gifting and start serving.
Back in the days when Dorcas served, there were no churches. So, people used to meet in someone’s home for fellowship. The book of Acts of Apostles having been written around AD 63-70 is similar to what we saw in the book of Philemon which was written around AD 60. So, there were no churches by then, but this woman does not wait until the church formulates a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. She starts it herself. Now, sadly, many of us wait until the church announces a visit to a children’s home and that’s when they remember to give. Some wait until they are requested by a friend. But for Dorcas she could not wait. She had a burning desire for God until she could identify and solve the needs of the people around her.
According to a Roman philosopher by the name Lucius Annaeus Seneca, “He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.” For Dorcas she did wait until it was announced in the church but she started it herself. So should we.
Why was Dorcas taken to an upper room when she died? Now an upper room had a special meaning in Israel. It symbolized contact with God. It was an upper room to show she was having some quiet time with God. The Application Bible says she was not placed in the ground floor because in the ground floor there are many issues going on, people making noise, cooking and so many things. But the upper room is a quiet place where you get to meet with God.
Let us desire to find some upper room moments in our lives where we just get out of the crowd and find some place to fellowship with God. When the disease ailing Dorcas was too much to bear, she rested and was later taken to an upper room. It is the same with us today, when trouble becomes unbearable, we should rest and desire to have a moment with God, laying like a ram on the altar, allowing God’s will to be done.
An upper room has also been mentioned in many instances in the Bible as a prayer room. It was the place where the Holy Spirit came, where Mathias was elected, where their feet were washed and where Jesus appeared to them after resurrection. So, it is a symbol here of getting in contact with God.
Dorcas is presented by the author of the Acts of the Apostles – Luke, as a common woman, with a common name Dorcas, living in a common place like Joppa doing a common job like sewing or knitting to help the poor. Yet, the author, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, finds it important to underscore her works. How about you today, you may not be in the best place, school, situation, job, family or financial situation today, but it will be sad if you use such factors as a reason why you are not effective in service. Many have used such factors, but for a person like Dorcas, she could not wait to see the poor suffering whereas she could do something. Dorcas did not wait; we too should not wait to help others while there is something we can do with our basic skills even like sewing.