Today we read of a woman philanthropist in the early Christian period. She was a godly successful business woman believer philanthropist who made clothing materials and clothes. The Bible described her as ‘a disciple’ (of Jesus Christ). She lived and worked in Joppa, situated on the Mediterranean coast some 40 miles (60 km) northwest of Jerusalem. The sea-port town was cosmopolitan and was occupied and frequented by many nationalities (considerably Phoenicians, Greek, Roman and others). Joppa is located about 30 miles (48 km) south of Caesarea.
She was a Christian philanthropist: who gave “altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons…and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.” (dictionary definition of philanthropy)
This story recorded in the Bible Acts chapter 9 started after she was dead. But the other Christians sent for apostle Peter (who was 11 miles away at Lydda nearby) and he came immediately and raised her from the dead. This makes the story interesting. Why the inclusion of this small event after the same chapter recorded the powerful supernatural conversion of Saul to the apostle Paul? The focus was not on Peter as raising the dead was one of the common tasks the apostles and disciples of Jesus was commanded to do.
Here is the answer:
The godly character of Dorcas was a powerful testimony while she was alive. She was well known for her trade and good reputation. But she was more than just being successful in her ability to acquire wealth and social status. She was a Christian role model not just superficially by doing lots of good work in meeting the physical needs of the poor. She was not a typical charitable philanthropist or social worker. She was one of the few ‘business as mission’ pioneers in the early churches.
She was a Christian who practiced the commandments of God in providing physical material support to the poor, the widows and possibly orphans, all socially oppressed regardless of their nationality.Many of the poor (widows) knew her as their benefactress. They talked to others about her good deeds.
The news of her being resurrected spread though the whole town and many believed in the Lord Jesus.
Through coming to resurrect her, Peter stayed on for a long time at the town, living with another Christian tradesman, a tanner of hides. It became a base for spreading the Gospel further.
Later, the Lord sent to Peter a vision to confirm the vision of another godly Roman centurion Cornelius (Cornelius was an officer of the Roman garrison stationed at Caesarea, then the civil capital of Judaea), so that the Gospel could be preached to the latter in answer to his prayers, thereby starting the evangelism among the gentiles outside Samaria, just as Jesus had commanded.(Acts 1:8)
The chapter started with Paul’s conversion so that he could become the apostle evangelist among the gentiles, and ended by strategically positioning apostle Peter to confirm what Paul had been called to do., which was recorded in the rest of the book of Acts. The inclusion of the portion on Dorcas was no small matter!
Another notable worthy lesson about this woman’s life: She was the kind of leader who could raise up a group of men and women co-workers and even employees who valued her life on earth and wanted God to extend her life-span. (There was no mention of her own family or close relatives. It was possible that she was alone without her own kin.) )
The Christian believers took the initiative to send two men to find Peter and brought him to raise her from the dead. None of the believers who were with her thought of taking over the charge of the company, the wealth and possession of her prosperous business, or the power, fame and social status of a successful philanthropist. These were Christians who did not value or love material or worldly stuff more than they loved their fellow Christian brothers and sisters. These Christians were disciples and not mere believers.They knew the will of God. They knew the powerful work and miraculous signs of the Holy Spirit through Peter and his co-workers. They believed without doubt in the living God.
Why was she raised from the dead? It was quite obvious that the Christians had prayed fervently for her life-span to be extended on earth. What kind of woman was Dorcas? She was described as ‘a disciple’. She was no mere woman. There must have been more length, width, height, and depth about her life than what we know of her. Truly a role model and worthy testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Think about this: If what Dorcas did was mere charitable work for the poor her name would not have been recorded in the Bible. The people who followed her and enjoyed her material supplies would have forgotten her after her death and started looking for ways to get some shares of the things she left behind. )
Question for ‘business as mission’ missionary to ask yourself:
What kind of followers you are leaving behind? Are you a disciple yourself? Are you making disciples of others?
36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas[g]). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”
39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them. 40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.
42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.