Calling of Tabitha: Every Disciple Has This Call, But Searches for Another
Updated: Feb 11
"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas). Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need.” Acts 9:36 CEB
Unlike the 12 disciples, we do not learn from scripture Tabitha’s call (Acts 9:36) to become a disciple of Jesus. While too many women in scripture go unnamed and unacknowledged, she is mentioned in two languages. A double honor. Some say mentioning both versions of her name alludes to her far-reaching impact on multiple, diverse communities. Tabitha means gazelle or deer.
Tabitha is named and identified as a disciple. This demarcation is significant because she is the only woman explicitly named a disciple in the New Testament. We know there were many women who were disciples of Jesus, however, Tabitha is the only one identified as such.
One translation of disciple is learner. This definition, however, is shortsighted and has created generations of learned people who do not follow, as in practice acts and express loving emotions for Jesus. Learning and doing are not one in the same. Disciples both proclaim and practice the Great Commandment (Matthew 25) and the Great Commission (Matthew 18).
Too often in search of our special or specific call, we forget the foundational call as a disciple to love God, love self, love neighbor (Matthew 25). Motivated by love, Tabitha cares for widows in the community by sewing them tunics. In addition to understanding widows as those whose husbands died, we can also look at what they symbolized; loss of protection, care, safety, family, and sustenance. If we consider these and other losses, then “widows” are all around us.
We do not know what more Tabitha did for the widows, if anything. However I imagine that genuine connection through conversation was part of her interaction with them. The deep love between the widows and Tabitha shows up in the mourning and tears the community expresses when she died.
Perhaps gratitude for and living out the disciple’s call to love leads to clarity of a more specific, gifts-centered call. What if by living out the first call the other becomes more apparent in time? What if they are intricately linked together?
There is no greater call than to the commandment we all have to love; love that is professed, felt, and practiced.
Tabitha’s love for Jesus and her impact in the Joppa community and beyond is remembered in scripture. The story of her resurrection is one that spread throughout time and impacts us today. At the same time, her story remains one that is not highlighted or preached often. We may only know of her because of a sewing circle donning her name. Yet, in just a few verses we meet a loving woman disciple who loved God and her community.
Perhaps we have complicated our understanding of call by searching high and low for a way to make a specific impact and be purposeful. We cannot bypass our call as disciples of Jesus to love, in search for a Holy-grail, unique-to-you call. Of utmost importance we are commanded to to love in word and deed. May that be the center of any call — as it was for Jesus.
Action Brings Clarity
Consider the other lessons Tabitha’s story teaches us and read the GET UP book with me starting Wednesday, February 22. Purchase a copy on sale today here!
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© Charity Goodwin, 2023.
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