After a few months focusing on the ladies of the Old Testament, we’ve moved back to the New Testament. For our final write up on Rebekah, and everything we have learned about her, you can find Rachel’s summary post from last week here. To say she was a complex woman is putting it mildly!
This week, we’ve focused on a woman who is barely mentioned in the Bible. Tabitha, or Dorcas, is found in Acts 9. This is the beginning of the spread of Christianity – Paul is converted at the beginning of Acts 9, and while he recovers, the narrative switches to Peter. He’s spreading the message of Jesus, and he hears about Tabitha.
Tabitha: The Disciple
Tabitha is a disciple. I love that statement in itself: the Bible makes it very clear that she is a true believer in Jesus. We hear a lot about the first 12 disciples – all men – but very, very little about women who followed him. Yet Tabitha – and we don’t know how she came to know of Jesus – is named a disciple in her own right. Not a wife or mother, but a disciple.
Tabitha: Doing Good
The second thing that we hear about her is that she was always doing good. Wow. That’s an amazing thing to say about someone. I mean, I try to do good when there’s an option. When I can. But always? Always doing good? That’s impressive.
Tabitha: Helping the Poor
The third thing we’re told about Tabitha is that she helps the poor. She’s always doing good and always helping the poor. What a legacy. What an amazing thing to say about someone.
I was ill this week, and spent an afternoon in bed watching Netflix. I binge-watched Call the Midwife. Tim doesn’t understand why I love it, but I do. These nuns and nurses do so much good in their community. They are repeatedly selfless to the extreme, attending one crisis after another. One of the lines from the Christmas Special stayed with me: “The hands of God are so often to be found at the end of our own arms.”
Call the Midwife is set in the 1950s in Poplar, an extremely deprived area of London. The poverty is shocking, and, as always, it is the very young and the very old who are most affected by it.
Do we still have those levels of poverty in the UK?
UK Poverty 2017 highlights that overall, 14 million people live in poverty in the UK – over one in five of the population. This is made up of eight million working-age adults, four million children and 1.9 million pensioners. 8 million live in families where at least one person is in work.
So yes, quite simply, we have poverty in the UK. Our NHS, high quality free education and benefits system have helped to reduce the amount of poverty, but over one in five of our population is classed as living in poverty.
We have poverty all over the world too. Perhaps those levels of poverty are more obvious: Haiti, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Eritrea… War, famine and corruption seem impossible problems to tackle. But surely we are called to help these poor too?
The challenge for us
One of my biggest challenges in studying this verse was wondering what I should do to help the poor, like Tabitha. Before we had children, Tim and I helped out in a Manchester Homeless Charity, distributing meals. That was quite clearly helping the poor. I worked in one of the poorest areas of the city, with children in extreme poverty – I was very aware of the needs of the poor.
And yet, since we’ve moved away and we’ve had the children, I haven’t really helped the poor. We still sponsor a child in Haiti. We give to the Food Bank and to charity regularly. But that’s it. If I have free time when I could volunteer, I can’t leave the house.
I’m sure this is a problem many other mums face. So what could we do?
Locally: In the UK
- Write to your MP about protecting the poor – Sites like 38 Degrees and Write to Them can be useful.
- Give regularly to your local food bank.
- Donate to a charity (or several if you can).
- Volunteer to become a telephone befriender through AgeUK
- Host a Potluck meal once a month and invite someone who might be lonely.
- Pick up litter
- Support the work of CAP
- Donate clothes, books and toys to charity
- Buy from charity shops
- Support your local school. Education is the best way out of poverty.
- Sponsor a child.
- Give regularly to a charity.
- Think about where you buy your clothes and household goods from. Try to buy fair trade and ethically produced products.
- Lobby your MP about aid for poor countries
I’m sure there are so, so many more options and suggestions, but personally, I’m going to keep a closer eye on my own spending so I can give more to the poor, and I’m going to make a real effort to buy ethically produced clothes.
Next week, we’re looking at Lydia, who is mentioned in Acts 16:15: When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.