The woman lay still and silent on her bed. She couldn’t say a word—but then, she didn’t have to. As Peter made his way toward her, he found himself surrounded by those whose lives the woman had impacted before her death. “And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39).
This story always gets to me. It’s an inset in the book of Acts. So many big-picture things are going on around it: the early Church is exploding in numbers. Saul, the most vicious persecutor of the God’s people, has just been converted and baptized. God is setting the stage to reveal to the Church that the Gentiles—the inferior, reviled, second-class citizens of Jewish culture—are about to become their brethren, co-heirs of salvation. These were some of the most historic moments God’s Church would ever experience—and there, in the middle of it all, Luke pauses to tell the story of Dorcas.
Dorcas, who was “full of good works and charitable deeds which she did” (Acts 9:36). Dorcas, who was surrounded by a roomful of widows proudly displaying those good works and sharing the stories of those charitable deeds. Dorcas, who took the word of God and lived it.
That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? Because it’s easy to talk about being a Christian. It’s even pretty easy, relatively speaking, to write a blog about being a Christian. The hard part is getting out there and being a Christian. But Dorcas did that. Rather than only theorizing or discussing or studying, she took what God had revealed to her and she ran with it. And because of that, her death left a hole so gaping in the local community that no one seemed quite sure how to fill it.
Good works. Charitable deeds. Nothing complicated, and yet it’s hard for me to read about Dorcas without feeling a twinge of shame. It’s not complicated, but it’s not always easy, either. Dorcas invested a lot of time and effort into good works, and her congregation’s reaction to her death speaks volumes about her life.
What about me? If I died tomorrow, would there be a crowd of people holding up my good works and charitable deed and asking, “What are we going to do without him?”
I don’t know.
It’s a sobering thought—not because we should live our lives with the goal of having a heartbreaking funeral, but simply because it reminds us that we’re building our legacy. Right now. Today. In every moment that we speak, act and exist, we’re choosing what we’ll leave behind when we’re gone. We’re deciding the memories others will have to look back and reflect on.
Is your little corner of the world going to be better or worse because you were in it?
Dorcas made her corner better. She doesn’t appear to have had power and prestige and wealth; she wasn’t at the forefront of some sweeping social reform; she didn’t do something that made the world stop and look. She made garments. Tunics. Gave them to people who needed them.
Good works. Charitable deeds.
My favorite part of Dorcas’s story is the end. Through Peter, God chooses to do the impossible and bring Dorcas back to life—a touching, wonderful moment in itself, but not the end of the story. The end is here, in this brief footnote: “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord” (Acts 9:42).
Question: Were people believing on the Lord because there had been a resurrection, or because Dorcas had been resurrected? Probably a little of both, honestly—but I’m willing to bet that a lot of people in Joppa knew Dorcas. I’m willing to bet that a lot of people in that town had been on the receiving end of her good works and charitable deeds. And I’m willing to bet that when a lot of people found out that the God Dorcas served—the God that made her unusual and different and an outlier in the community—when they heard that that God had resurrected Dorcas, the road to believing on the Lord was probably not a difficult one. The Roman world was filled with gods—murderous gods, childish gods, irritable gods, gods of every shape, size, and character flaw—but here, in the middle of it all, was a good God with followers who did good things; a God who proved Himself by bringing a faithful servant back from the dead.
You’re leaving a legacy. Every moment of every day, you’re leaving behind a story for those who come after you—a story that says (to those in the Church and to those outside it), “Here’s what I think it means to follow God.”
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:7-10).
Dorcas left behind a story worth reading. Will you do the same?
Until next time,