Tabitha, or Dorcas, is mentioned in a grand total of one brief Bible passage. We know that she was a follower of Christ and served others compassionately (Acts 9:36). We know that she made clothes for widows (Acts 9:39) and that Peter raised her to life again, much to the joy of her fellow disciples (Acts 9:41). Seven verses tell us precious little about her life, but they immortalize her as a compassionate servant and explain how her resurrection sparked the faith of others in Joppa (Acts 9:36-42). Despite a lack of details about Tabitha, we can learn from her example of a Christlike spirit of humility and servitude.
1. Tabitha saw needs and fulfilled them.
She didn’t wait for others to find opportunities to serve. Tabitha had a unique set of abilities and opportunities, and she used her situation to fulfill a need in her congregation. When Peter arrived after her death, “All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.” Tabitha not only recognized the needs of the widows—she took the initiative to help them. She fulfilled a need that was present and easily overlooked. Tabitha loved the widows through her actions, as John instructed: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).
What you can do: Don’t wait for someone else to point out a way you can serve. Seek out opportunities to serve because of your love for Christ and for others.
2. Tabitha impacted lives because she served others.
Her love for her family in Christ was not idle. She was “full of good works and acts of charity,” (Acts 9:36) and the many hours she spent painstakingly hand-making clothes for widows and compassionately serving those in need were invaluable. In return for her thoughtful service, the widows mourned her passing as the death of a close friend. They wept as they showed Peter the clothing she made for them, the most powerful, personal way of telling him, “Look, this is who Tabitha was. This is how she served us and cared for us.” She impacted the lives of her fellow disciples, not through a prestigious, public act of leadership, but through the thoughtful, humble way she served.
What you can do: The most powerful impact made on lives comes not from a position of authority, but from the humble position of a servant. Serve others humbly and you will impact their lives, and in turn, your church and community.
3. Tabitha showed her faith through her actions.
We know that Tabitha was a faithful follower of Christ (a “disciple” in Acts 9:36) and that her faith was an active one. She had the living faith that James described: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:15-17). Tabitha showed the love of Christ to others through her kind, compassionate actions.
What you can do: Follow Christ’s example of humble service to others. Visit older members of your congregation. Send an encouraging card to someone who is sick or mourning. Offer to babysit a friend’s kids for an evening. Find opportunities available to you, and serve out of love.
Just like Tabitha, each of us has an individual combination of abilities and opportunities. From her small appearance in the New Testament, Tabitha teaches us to use our situations to glorify God and to seek out chances to serve others. She portrayed the humble attitude of Christ when He “came not to be served but to serve” (Mat. 20:28). Serving is a powerful tool for touching lives with Christ’s love and, like Tabitha, we can make an enormous impact by putting others first.