What’s your purpose in life? You get up every morning to do what? Go to school perhaps. But for what purpose? You go to school to get good grades so you can get a good job…but for what purpose? To make lots of money? What if you don’t achieve that goal? Will your life be meaningless? To be sure, life without a purpose is a drag. Just ask any child on summer vacation who has nothing to do. But we do have a purpose in life. Through the example of a woman named Tabitha, we’re going to see that our life will be full of meaning when we realize that our purpose is to serve others as we serve the Lord.
Tabitha lived in the Israelite city of Joppa. She’s described as a disciple who was always doing good and helping the poor (Acts 9:36). What Tabitha did was sew clothes for other people. She made quite an impression because when she died all those who had benefitted from Tabitha’s service showed her handiwork to the Apostle Peter when he came to Joppa. At first glance we wouldn’t expect the true story of Tabitha to be included in the Bible had Peter not raised her from the dead. We’ll talk more about that miracle in just a minute but the Holy Spirit must want us to learn more from this story than God’s power over death. It was no accident he included the details of Tabitha’s service, for in Tabitha we have a Christian who exemplified Jesus’ words from our Gospel reading this morning: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
What is perhaps startling about Tabitha’s service is how, in the world’s eyes, it didn’t amount to much. She sewed clothes, not eradicate world hunger or discover a cure for cancer. In the same way, Brothers and Sisters, you don’t have to do something that’s worthy of winning a Nobel Prize for God to take note of what you have done. What are you gifts and talents? Sewing? Encouraging? Cooking? Organizing? Leadership? Fixing things? Whatever they are use those gifts and talents to serve others. When this service is done to God’s glory and not to win praise for ourselves God considers what we have done to be pleasing to him.
But wasn’t it easier for Tabitha to serve others than it is for us? I mean look at how appreciative the people were of her efforts. “I’d serve more too if people were appreciative of my efforts.” Ever entertain that sinful thought? Ever pull back from helping others because you never get a word of thanks from them? But don’t thoughts like that show that the reason we were serving in the first place was to get thanks instead of to give thanks? What was it Jesus said in our Gospel lesson? “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Because we are loved by Jesus. Because he saved us from our sins. Because he provides for our daily needs. Because he has won heaven for us. That’s why we serve others. Sure, it’s great when people recognize our acts of service but that’s not our goal. In fact Jesus tells us to do our acts of service “in secret.” Jesus said: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).