10 Little-Known Lessons from the life of Tabitha (Dorcas) in Acts 9:36-43

Do you know the lady in the Bible whose name was Tabitha or Dorcas? Her life’s example has been so noteworthy that a few verses of the Bible have been dedicated to her. In this post, let us take a look at what we can learn from the life of Tabitha in Acts 9:37-43.

A great woman of God lay down in her bed.

Lifeless but filled with love from the people around her.

Dead but alive in the memories of her loved ones.

Great cries and sighs filled the room as people bitterly grieved her death.

You can tell by the emotions of these people how this lady touched their lives in a special way.

The name of the lady is Tabitha.

Her good works were too difficult to ignore that her good works were recorded in the Bible.

Though she died, her legacy of zeal and passion for God’s work lives on through the pages of the Holy Book.

Thus, I strongly believed that we, as Christians, today would learn a lot of beautiful lessons from this amazing lady.

So, let us take a deeper look at Tabitha’s life and see what we can learn from her life.

Who is Tabitha in the Bible?

Tabitha was a disciple who lived in Joppa, which was the ancient seaport of Jerusalem. Her Hebrew name is Tabitha, but she is also called Dorcas in Greek. 

Her name means a gazelle or deer. In the East, it is a common custom for some parents to name their children after beautiful animals such as a gazelle.

Her story is found in Acts 9:36-43, where we get a glimpse of who she was and how she made a great impact on the work of God.

Here’s what the passage says:

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. 

37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 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.

39 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. 

40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 

41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

With that, let us take a look at some of the best lessons from Tabitha or Dorcas of Joppa.

Lesson no. 1: the term disciple is also applicable to women

When we think of disciples, I would say that the first thing that pops in your mind would be men. This is understandable as we often find in the Bible that the word disciple is applied to males.

However, do you know that this word is also used to refer to women?

In Acts 9:36 we read:

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.

If you look into the Greek word of disciple in this verse, it is the word, mathetria, which is the feminine form of the word disciple.

This shows us that men and women have equal potential in the eyes of God. Though we have different roles in the Church of the Almighty, we have the same value and worth. The Most High God does not play favoritism nor will ever be.

A disciple is someone who accepted God’s authority and rulership in his/her life. To be a disciple means you strive to become the person God wants you to be. In short, it is to do His will in your life.

If you look around us, it is sad how so many people stopped in just believing, but not doing. Because of this, they don’t become true disciples, but rather, just mere believers.

Choose to be a disciple. Faith in God isn’t just a belief, but a lifestyle.

Lesson no. 2: Leave a legacy worth remembering

Tabitha made a legacy worth remembering. In fact, her legacy was so amazing that her record of good works are put into the Bible for everyone to read.

We read in Acts 9:36:

36 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.

As if saying good works is not enough, Luke, the writer of Acts, added the adjective FULL. Luke was saying that Tabitha was not just doing some good works, but she was actually full of it!

Not only that, but aside from good works, she has also done a lot of charitable deeds.

We must strive to live a life that is worth living for. We don’t simply live for ourselves, but we must also live for others.

And that’s exactly what Tabitha did here.

In the Bible, we don’t read anything Tabitha said. Perhaps, she also said a lot of wonderful things, but she was remembered more for her works.

It’s a great tragedy when you die and no one misses you.

No one cries for you.

No one grieves for your absence.

It’s quite a tragedy.

It only means that you haven’t lived a life worth remembering.

But we could see here how Tabitha devoted her life to doing good works.

When she died, we have seen how all the “widows stood by [Peter] weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39).

How about you?

When you die, how would people remember you?

Will they remember a loving, caring, and kind person?

Or will they whisper in your grave, “Good riddance!”

I hope when we leave our physical life, what remains would be stories of how we made a difference in people’s lives.

Lesson no. 3: Good works are needed in our Christian life

It is such a tragedy when I hear preachers saying that all you have to do to be saved is to pray the sinner’s prayer and believe in Jesus Christ. Rarely they will tell you that good works are still needed.

However, the Tabitha Bible or Dorcas showed us otherwise.

She believed God and Yahshua (Jesus), but that is not enough.

She has the faith, but it wasn’t a dead faith, but an active, living faith!

Her living faith moved her to perform good works.

As Luke wrote, she was FULL of good works like a tree full of fruit.

Many people are full of words but empty in works.

Tabitha is different.

She made a living of doing good works. She was never idle, but she’s busy helping others.

Let us remember what Yacob or James wrote:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

Let us not be content with just academic knowledge of God’s word.

Let us not stop in having faith through words, but faith through works as well.

Lesson no. 4: Have faith in God’s resurrection

One thing that really amazes me is the faith of the disciples and followers of Christ in Joppa. You might not notice it at first, but read:

37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 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 (Acts 9:37-38).

The body of Tabitha wasn’t anointed for burial. Instead, her body was only washed. This means that the disciples didn’t have any intention of burying Tabitha yet.

Instead, what did they do? They called on Peter and implored “him not to delay in coming to them.”

The Apostle Peter indeed performed a lot of miracles in the past through God’s help. However, could he also raise someone from the dead?

Well, the other disciples believed he could with God’s power. I think that’s really amazing — to have the faith that God can still raise Tabitha from the dead!

Such an amazing and powerful faith to have. No doubt: they believe in God’s power of resurrection.

For us, Christians today, we know that someday, when God sends back His Son, the dead will be raised.

We read, in John 5:25:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”

We can have the complete confidence that God will one day raise the saints and give them eternal life.

Lesson no. 5: Prayer is powerful

Prayer is powerful not because we bend God to our own will, but we seek God’s will through our prayers.

In the Bible, we see how prayers transformed people and their circumstances. Prayers can stop famine, heal sick people, forgive sin, unload burden, make a person wise, and in the case of Tabitha, bring a dead person to life!

(You may be interested in reading, “10 Unbelievable Powers of Prayer that You Should Know.”)

We read:

But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).

Peter is powerless before death. But with God, death is powerless over us

Because God has a plan for Tabitha and the proceeding miracle, He answered the prayer of Peter and brought Tabitha back to life.

Now, that’s the power of prayer!

Lesson no. 6: God has a purpose in everything He does

Today, you might wonder, why don’t we see more earth-shaking miracles. Why don’t we see good people being spared from debilitating diseases? Why don’t we see people coming back from the grave? Why don’t we see natural calamities stopped before they ever come near us?

God has a purpose in everything He does. He can choose to intervene. He can also choose not to.

But why?

Because He is working out a greater purpose.

In the case of Tabitha, God didn’t heal her while she was sick.

Instead, the Almighty let her die and used this incident to perform a miracle, which can serve as an agent to call more people in His growing Body of believers.

We read:

And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord (Acts 9:42).

God wrought miracles to show the people at that time that He is more powerful than the great enemy called death. At the same time, He was proving to others that Peter was truly one of His servants and to make Peter’s preaching more powerful and authoritative.

Through the miracle, people were able to see that the Gospel preached by the Apostles and followers of Christ are truly from God and not from men. Not only that, but it gives us the assurance that God has truly the power to resurrect anyone whom He chooses.

We may not know the reason behind every decision God makes, but we can always be confident that it is for our greater good and ultimately, for our spiritual well-being.

Lesson no. 7: The saints are God’s people

One noteworthy lesson from the life of Tabitha is understanding what the word “saint” really means.

When we hear of the word saint, we mostly think about the dead servants of God. We also think of the people who were canonized and believed to have wrought miracles in the past.

Actually, if you look up the word saint in the Bible, it is a term used to refer to living people — people who have committed their lives to the work of God. These people are those who believe in God, do His commandment, and follow His will in His life.

We read:

Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive” (Acts 9:41).

It is also wrong to pray to dead “saints.” When righteous people die, they remain in the grave. They don’t go to heaven and intercede for the living. This is a huge topic so please read, “The Shocking Reason We Should Stop Praying to Saints.”

Are you looking for interesting Christian books to read? If yes, let me helpful. Check out our post, “The ULTIMATE LIST of 50 Best* Christian Books of All Time.”

Lesson 8: Righteous people are not exempted to trials

There’s a growing misconception today, deliberately propagated by Prosperity Gospel preachers. They teach that those who follow God will experience abundance, prosperity, peace, and good health.

Well, while it is true that blessings await those who make Father their God, it is equally true that trials and difficulties are also part of the Christian life.

In fact, if you follow the Most High, it is expected that you will suffer for it. In numerous passages, we read how Christians are to go through much tribulation just to be in the come.

Why? Because our ultimate reward is not found on this earth!

Our reward is with Christ and He will give it to us when He finally returns to establish the Kingdom of His Father (Revelation 22:12)!

Tabitha, is no doubt a righteous, zealous, and committed servant of God.

However, was she exempted from difficulties and trials in life?

No.

On the contrary, she fell sick and did not recover.

We read:

But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room (Acts 9:37).

She died of the disease. I’m sure the saints, disciples, and widows prayed for her recuperation.

However, were their prayers answered?

No.

But as you can see, her death served a greater purpose.

If she didn’t die, we wouldn’t have seen a great miracle of a person coming back to life.

If she didn’t die, the faith of the people around here wouldn’t be tested.

If she didn’t die, the people wouldn’t have appreciated what great loss they had.

You see, the suffering that you are experiencing right now has its own purpose.

They teach you lessons — lessons you won’t otherwise learn unless you go through a trial in life.

Though we may not fully understand the reason why, we can be sure that it helps us grow into a more mature, responsible, and most importantly, faithful servant of God.

Lesson no. 9: We give all the glory back to God

Sometimes, there’s a danger for us to get puffed up when God uses us to fulfill His work here on earth. As we see the mighty works of God being done through us, we might become proud and think that it is all because of our righteousness.

Peter perfectly knows this danger. That’s why, when he came and checked on Tabitha, what did he do?

We read:

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… 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed… and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive (Acts 9:39-41).

As you can see, Peter does not want people to be seeing him kneeling down and praying. As you can imagine, a lot of people might have crowded the place to see what would be done of Tabitha.

Peter refused to create any appearance of vainglory or ostentation. 

He doesn’t want to look holy and pious before the people. Not only that, but he made sure that the people would be put outside so he can better pray to God and pour out his emotion to him without feeling conscious with so many people who might be watching him.

As a result, the glory is given to God and not to Peter.

Peter knew very well that by himself, he can do nothing, but with God, he can do even the impossible!

Lesson no. 10: Everyone has a role to play

Tabitha is one amazing lady who used her talent to serve the brethren. When she died, the widows were weeping bitterly and showed Peter the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.

I like to think that those tunics and garments are really beautiful. They are wonderfully handcrafted with love and care.

No doubt: not everyone can sew or can be as talented as Tabitha. However, that doesn’t mean that we simply just sit around and let others do the job we are given.

We may not do everything, but we can do something. That’s the part Tabitha chose.

There might be so many things that you can’t do, but choose to do the things you can do.

Don’t belittle the little things that you can complete because in many cases, it is the small things that occupy the biggest part in people’s hearts.

If you read through Acts 9:36-43, you’ll see how different people have different roles to play.

The women washed Tabitha’s body.

The disciples talked among themselves and decided what to do.

Two men were sent to inform Peter.

Peter prayed and asked God for His divine intervention.

The men and women ministered each other.

As you can see, each of us has a role to play.

You may not be talented in sewing, but I’m sure that you have something to contribute.

In Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

As you can see, everyone has a role to play in the Messiah’s Body.

You may be good at speaking, singing, flower arrangement, decorating, or like Tabitha, sewing. All you have to do is look into yourself and see what you can contribute to the work of God.

Final words

These are the 10 best lessons we can learn from the life of Dorcas or Tabitha in the Bible. Who would have thought that there are a lot of lessons we can learn from an obscure biblical character?

I hope you enjoyed our blog today. Most importantly, may the lessons you have learned will not simply stay in your head, but also turn into actions.

(P.S. If this blog has inspired you or this website has helped you in any way, please consider supporting this noble work. Learn more how you can help here.)

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