At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. – Acts 9:36 – 40
I believe this to be one of the more interesting side stories recorded in the book Of Acts. This is the only mention of this lowly disciple who was a servant of the kingdom of God through her service to this local church. She did not meet the standards of what the prominent men of her society would consider to be great or even noteworthy. The only two mentions of her contribution were Luke’s mention of “full of good works and charitable deeds” and the evidence from those grieving over her death of the tunics and garments which she had made.
Why is this account even included in the New Testament? Certainly her being raised from the dead by the apostle Peter was a sign, a testimony that the source of his message could only have been divine. I believe there’s another reason. I believe even though she labored in obscurity and possibly even anonymity, these verses testify the importance of these seemingly small contributions to the kingdom of God.
Jesus spent a great deal of time trying to teach his apostles and disciples the importance of humility and the greatness of servitude. Even so, his disciples fell prey to the predominant human wisdom that greatness is measured by the enormity of the impact of our deeds. Mark 9 records a sample incident as Jesus attempts to combat this line of thinking:
Who Is the Greatest?
Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mk 9:33-35
There are so many small and seemingly insignificant tasks that are important to the functioning of the local church I hesitate to try and list even a few. From the cleaning of the building, the preparation of the Lord’s supper, to the notes dropped to those not in attendance, and on and on and on. Many times those tasks seem to go unnoticed or unappreciated. I assure you that is not the case. Jesus defined the path to greatness in the kingdom to be one of service in this life. That is directly opposite to what most people think to be important or relevant. Nowhere in the New Testament do I find a list of those people who Society considered to be great. I do, however, find a long list of those who followed the example of Jesus in seeking to serve their fellow man and thus give glory and honor to our God. – t.keese Feb ’12