by Michael E. Brooks
“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. … 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 9:36,37,39 NKJV).
The “Dorcas Ladies” of the Highland Park congregation in Muscle Shoals, Alabama made more than 50 dresses for little girls this summer. When we returned to Bangladesh in early August, Brenda and I brought them with us and gave them to preachers for distribution in their churches and communities. One little four-year-old girl, “Gloria,” was visiting on the Khulna Bible College campus at this time. I have her picture in her new red dress with a beautiful smile on her face. The look on her face, and my reaction when I see it, is ample testimony to Jesus’ saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Good works always bless at least two parties — the receiver and the giver. One must not underestimate the value of receiving. If a person is truly hungry, or ill, or otherwise in desperate need, any gift that relieves that need is a genuine blessing. His need is real and his relief is experienced as almost miraculous. Such a person with normal human reactions will feel deep gratitude and appreciation for the giver, just as the widows showed their feelings for Dorcas who helped them.
But her good works also blessed Dorcas. How she felt while she lived we can only guess. But since her works were repeated, we assume she enjoyed doing them and felt that the good deeds she did provided some rewards. But we know the remainder of this story. Peter sent everyone out of the room where Dorcas’ body lay, and then he commanded her to rise. She opened her eyes and lived again. If life is a gift and blessing from God, then her resurrection was indeed a great blessing to her, and also to those whom she no doubt continued to help.
Jesus also said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). As we give to others, so God gives to us. When we are generous, so is he. And God has so much more with which to be generous. Jesus’ promise is unqualified. Give and God will reward us. Not necessarily in the same currency in which we gave, but his blessings are guaranteed. It is a mistake to treat “good works” as a “get rich quick scheme.” God is not that materialistic, nor should we be. His blessings are many and varied. Dorcas received more time to live and do good on this earth. Others may receive deep contentment, glowing reputations, and other non-tangibles. And some may receive material reward. We cannot predict the manner in which God will respond to our benevolence. But it is certain that he will respond positively in our favor, so long as our gift is sincere, for the right reasons. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).
by Michael E. Brooks