The Expository Files

 Dorcas and Her Good Works

[ From The Editors: This article is the sixth in a series we will publish this year, calling attention to twelve people who though being dead, instruct us (Heb. 11:4). They speak to us through the testimony of their lives as written in Scripture. Over the next few months, we will develop a theme title. And, near the end of the year we are planning to publish these twelve articles in book form (Kindle, Nook and old fashioned print and ink). These passages and people can equip us and motivate us toward greater service to our Lord.]

We must not perform our good works in order to be seen by men (Matt. 6:1), but men need to be able to see our good works (Matt. 5:16).

Dorcas is singled out in God’s Book as a woman who was “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36). Following are five points about her good works. Since we look into God’s mirror (the Bible) in order see ourselves and make necessary changes (James 1:22-25), we will conclude each point with reflective questions.

1. Dorcas was “full” of good works and charitable deeds (Acts 9:36). This means that she looked for opportunities to do good and abounded (excelled) in good works. She was obsessed with doing good. People in the world do a good deed every now and then, but this is the way a Christian ought to BE. It should be developed as part of our character. Peter declared that Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). What more beautiful description could be given of a person’s life? REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS: “Do you occasionally do a good work, or are you “full” of good works? Could you list some good works you have done for others recently?”

2. Her good works were not, from man’s perspective, weighty (Acts 9:39). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does big things in big ways, contributing thousands to charitable organizations. Dorcas made clothes for some needy widows. Even the smallest acts of kindness are noticed by God (Matt. 10:42), such as: making or mending clothes for widows, preparing food for someone who is sick, mowing a lawn, raking leaves or cleaning gutters for someone who is incapacitated. As the song says, “There is room in the kingdom of God, my brother, for the small things that you can do; Just a small, kindly deed that may cheer another is the work God has planned for you.” REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS: “Can you think of a small act of kindness someone rendered toward you, and it had an impact on your life? Can you think of one specific act of kindness you could be rendering to someone who needs it?”

3. Her good works were not done by proxy (Acts 9:36b). When a person acts “by proxy” he is doing something through another person or organization acting on his behalf. The little congregation in Arkansas where I grew up contributed a small amount of money each month to an orphan home. They used James 1:27 to defend the practice. Their idea was that they could perform their individual responsibility “to visit orphans” by proxy, i.e., through a human institution acting for them. Dorcas “was full of good works and charitable deeds WHICH SHE DID” (emp. mine). SHE did them! We can just see her sitting by candlelight, sewing garments for the poor. REFLECTIVE QUESTION: “What good work have you done on an individual basis lately—something executed on your own?”

4. When she died she was remembered for her good works (Acts 9:37, 39). When she died, those who knew her memorialized her by holding up “the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made…” We should want to be remembered at our funeral for faithful service rendered unto the Lord and others. A preacher was asked to speak at the funeral of a man who was not a Christian. When he asked the family if they could think of anything that they would like to be said about him, the only thing they could come up with was: “He sure could tell a good joke.” REFLECTIVE QUESTION: “At your funeral, what would the preacher be able to mention about your service unto others?”

5. She performed her good works “while she was with them” (Acts 9:39). Opportunities for doing good are here today and gone tomorrow, so make use of them today while you have them. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all…” (Gal. 6:10). Opportunities are fleeting: To say an encouraging word to that weak Christian; To try to restore that brother or sister who has fallen; To try to set up a Bible study with that lost person whom you see nearly every day. There is no reincarnation. There is no living our lives over and over again until we finally get it right. When we leave here, we are through here. REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS: “Is there some good deed you have meant to perform, and haven’t? How much more time do you have guaranteed to do it?”

Dorcas is not singled out in God’s Book because she was ordinary and commonplace, but because she rose above the ordinary and was distinctive. Let us not be content to be ordinary. Let us be distinctive.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

By Mike Pittman 
From Expository Files 19.6; June 2012