Benevolent, compassionate, and devout are all words that describe this incredible woman. She sewed for the needy, was a friend to the poor and gave so generously of herself that today, approximately two thousand years later, her name is synonymous with acts of charity.
“Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” (Acts 9:36)
Tabitha was first of all a disciple of Jesus Christ. She was a doer as well as a hearer of the word and followed Christ's commandment “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13: 15 & 34–35)
This motivating principle is manifested in Tabitha’s life by her “good works and almsdeeds.” Not only did she give of her coins but she gave of herself. With a sewing needle as her tool, she brought comfort and hope to the lowliest people in her society. She loved and served the widows in her community by making clothes for them. In that time and place widows were the most venerable members of society. Without a husband they often had no source of income. They had no one to protect them or to watch out for them. And so Tabitha looked after the widows. She used the skills that God had given her and exemplified the ideal woman spoken of in Proverbs 31:13, 20 “She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.”
No one will ever know the hours that she spent sewing, the reassuring words that she gave or all the uncountable acts of charity that she performed. However, we know that she was “full” from engaging in Christ like service and that her life was full of people who cared deeply about her.
One day, Tabitha became ill and died. When this happened, her friends and loved ones immediately went into action, “Whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.” (Acts 9: 37-38)
No doubt, these early Christians knew about the apostle Peter and the mighty miracles that he had performed in the name of Jesus Christ. Since Tabitha was such a great loss to the church in Joppa, they believed that Peter would help them. Perhaps they were looking for a miracle. When Peter heard the news about her death, he came at once. Upon arrival, he was taken to an upper room in the house where Tabitha’s body had been laid out. All the widows that she had helped were there wearing the clothes that Tabitha had made. They stood up around Peter weeping and showed him her handiwork. The faithful apostle must have had great compassion upon this scene and sought to bring the people comfort.
Peter dismissed the mourners from the room; then knelt down in faith and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, arise.' She then opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up. He gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, “and many people believed in the Lord."
Some might think that Tabitha’s story is important because she was raised from the dead, for this was indeed a marvelous and faith promoting miracle. But, I believe that her story is just as significant because of the life that she lived.
Tabitha learned to love her neighbor as herself and teaches us that those who have love in their hearts can do a lot of good for others. She reminds us that we are the Lords hands here upon the earth and that our service to others is an expression of our discipleship. I believe that the Lord depends upon each of us to love and help one another. In return we are blessed and sanctified through our sacrifice. “Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf
As we serve the Savior and do what He would have us do, we become more like Him. As we become more like the Savior, we can begin to understand how he served and saves us. The Atonement of Jesus Christ then becomes truer and more active in our lives.
Each day we have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day and to save them in little ways. Maybe it’s sewing clothing like Tabitha or just helping a neighbor who needs some small assistance. Whatever it is, even small and simple acts of kindness can mean the world to someone.
With Tabitha’s story in mind, let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion towards others. Let us make the effort to follow the Savior as she did. If we claim to be Christians and Disciples of Christ, should we not do the same?