Summary: PURE RELIGION (ACTS 9:36-42)
PURE RELIGION (ACTS 9:36-42)
Do you know of any widows and orphans in your midst? Upon graduating from a Hong Kong university, a young man from China decided to take up a job of leading an orphanage in China. It was quite a challenge to return to China because he studied in England, where he met his bride from Hong Kong, which was show he ended up at my church. They decided to live in Hong Kong so she could make more money as a nurse and he could take a Master’s degree in social studies. Two years were up very soon and he was to leave in a few months after joining a Christian organization. I asked his wife if she was anxious moving to an unfamiliar town and earning less, she said, “I have prepared myself. Yeah, I am easy, as long as we can be together.” (August 15, 2018)
Our church in Hong Kong has a Dorcas fellowship for single parents and widows for years. My wife Doris was a big supporter and regular speaker for their fellowship before her untimely death on May 22, 2016. It was her favorite ministry group. The ladies really liked her, respected and missed her a lot. By God’s grace the fellowship has a few ladies who have gone on to serve the Lord in full-time ministry.
The Bible says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” We are to honor widows (1 Tim 5:3). There are more known widows in the New Testament than in the Old Testament, from the poor widow who offered generously (Mark 12:42), 84 years-old Anna (Luke 2:37) and the widow whose only son died (Luke 7:12) in the gospels to the widows in the early church (Acts 6:1) and the widows who wept at Dorcas’ death (Acts 9:39).
How do you view the disadvantaged people in your society? What help is available to them? Why does God place people with special needs among us?
Be Useful in Practice
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.
The British Household Panel Survey reports that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. The Terman study found that those who help others is healthier and live longer than those who feel very loved and cared for.
A writer suggests 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time a person should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.
The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that that participants who made a purchase for someone else rather than on themselves reported feeling significantly happier immediately; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.
Tabitha was unlike any other woman in the Bible. What set her apart was that she was the first and only known female disciple, a “mathetria” (female disciple) instead of a “mathetes” (male disciple) – one of her kind, which I am sure there were many then, but she was the only person mentioned by name in the Bible. She was much admired for her earnest, exemplary and evident faith.
Not only was she renowned for a disciple, she was “full of good works and almsdeeds” (KJV). No one known individual in the Bible was attested to have “good works,” let alone “full of good works.” Her work was not in flashes - off and on, odds and ends, one and done, open and shut, but in full - time after time, on and on, over and beyond. The help was not conservative, circumstantial and coerced, but consistent, commonplace and charitable.
The noun “alms” (helping the poor, NIV) really means compassion, mercy and kindness in Greek. It is always plural, never singular in the Bible. Generous alms complement good works. Her good works and generous alms were of quality and quantity, in her attitude and amount, in the excellence and the extent. She picked up the slack when others did not, could not or would not. Nowhere in the text did it say she was rich, her family wealthy or servants were hired. She was more wonderful than wealthy as a person. It was in her being rather than her bank, in her heart rather in her heroism, in her passion rather than for her properties. It was open and obvious, not occasional or overhyped.
Be United in Petition