The Queen of the Needle

The Scripture record of Dorcas is limited to a few verses in the ninth chapter of Acts, but her name to this day stands for the benevolent use of the needle. Her example has been an inspiration to women throughout church history.

The Bible is silent concerning the genealogy of Dorcas. What is now is that her home was at Joppa and she was associated with a little band of Christians, most of whom were poor. She, however, apparently was a woman of means to serve humanity as freely as she did. The words of Jesus had no doubt been the moving power in her soul: “For I was hungered and you gave me meat, I was thirsty and you game me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked an you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me….in as much as you have done it unto the least of my brothers, you have done it for me”.

The Scriptures give us only glimpses of her witness and work for Christ in Acts chapter nine, yet she has influence many by her good works. She is evidently a Christian, being called “a certain disciple. It was through the ministry of Phillip the evangelist that a Christian church was established in Joppa at an early date. From the its very beginning, the church in Joppa was known as a center of fervent evangelism and a well-organized social service provider. Possibly Dorcas came to Christ in this church and there caught the vision of service.

Dorcas was well known for her good works and charitable deeds which she did. What is significant about the account of her life is that Dorcas not only thought up ways of relieving the needy, but she also carried out her plans! She knew what she could do and she DID it. She was a true “doer” of the Word. Among her good works was that of making clothes for widows and the need of her church and community with her own loving hands. The clothes that Dorcas cut out and sewed represented Christian faith in action. She was not only willing to give financially, but she was willing to invest herself in the work of charity.

When Dorcas died, she left the church at Joppa grief -stricken. The church called for the Apostle Peter, who was in a neighboring city, to come to them. They obviously had heard of Peter’s supernatural power and doubtless hoped that he might return their greatly-love patron to them. When he got there he found that the widows Dorcas had helped had laid her out and prepared an eloquent eulogy on the life and character of Dorcas by showing some of the many coats and garments which she made for them. Here were aged widows whose hands were too feeble to hold the needle and too poor to pay others for their work. They showed the warm garments Dorcas had made them to protect them from the cold winds which often swept in from the Mediterranean. And here were younger widows with little children who had been clothed by Dorcas. How could they ever find another friend like her?

But Dorcas was given back to them by a great miracle. Apparently this scene touched Peter’s emotions. He sent them all out and kneeled down and prayed. When he felt his request had been received by God, Peter spoke the word of power and authority and raised Dorcas from the dead, thus presenting her alive to the saints and widows at Joppa. What a moving scene that must have been! What joy to receive this blessed woman back from the dead. The mourners tear’s were wiped away and the work of the Lord grew mightily.

While Dorcas was greatly loved and respected among the people of Joppa, it seems that she wasn’t conscious of the magnificent work she was doing and of its far-reaching consequences. Dorcas did not strive to be a leader, but was content to stay in her own home and try to do all she could to serve the Lord in her sphere of influence. But because of her faithful service, she indeed became a leader in an almost universal philanthropic cause. Many women throughout history have sought to emulate the life of Dorcas by establishing “Dorcas Societies” that hold humanitarian ideals, engage in various relief activities, and whose sole purpose in existing is to do good. We can hold Dorcas as an example to all of us to look after the welfare of others. After all, James 1:27 tells us that: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We can find no finer model of this pure religion than Dorcas.