Fun fact for you: August is national “What Will be Your legacy?” month. It’s a pretty profound question. Let’s start with the basics, so we can all be on the same page…what is a legacy? While technically defined as “an inheritance,” the question more often than not makes us wonder how we will be remembered: “What have we done (or what are we doing) that will make people remember us when we’re gone?”
This month, I want to talk about the characteristics of two women – Phoebe and Dorcas. Phoebe and Dorcas both have a passing mention in the Bible, but despite the few words written about them, they have made a lasting impression. A legacy that has endured for the better part of 2000 years.
Let’s start with Phoebe.
The Apostle Paul introduced her to us in Romans 16:1-2. The NLT version reads, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.”
Phoebe was being introduced as a member of the Christian church, and while we know very little about her, the words, “She has been very helpful to many, and especially to me,”indicate that she was a Believer who had a servant’s heart. We can deduce that when it came to the Fruits of the Spirit, Phoebe excelled in kindness.
And with kindness comes compassion, caring, and a loving heart (among other wonderful gifts).
The attribute of “kindness” is a single word used to define a woman who lived centuries ahead of us. And though I never knew her personally, she left a legacy that I’d love to be known for, too.
But kindness is something that I have to be diligent about. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not deliberately mean, but unfortunately, I can get easily wrapped up in my own little world. Ephesians 4:32 exhorts us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” It’s clear from the few words written about her that Phoebe embraced this mindset. So much so, that Paul felt compelled to share this significant detail about her.
Now, let’s talk about Dorcas.
She is actually known by two names in the Bible—Dorcas and Tabitha. Dorcas is the Greek and Tabitha is the Aramaic. Whichever version of the name you choose to use, her story is told in Acts 9:36-43.
While Dorcas gets a bit more narrative than our friend, Phoebe, let’s focus on Acts 9:36b, which describes her character: “She was full of good works and acts of charity.” The rest of the verses tell us about her death and how Peter was asked to come. When he arrived, verse 39 states,“All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.” So, we know a little more about Dorcas. We know she was one who worked selflessly to do good for others who needed her help, and we know she was a seamstress. But we still don’t know much. However, we can deduce that like Phoebe, Dorcas had a servant’s heart. She demonstrated care for others through her handiwork and gave without expecting anything in return.
And through his faith, Peter prayed, and God restored her life, so she could continue ministering to others for a while more.
Just as I’d like to be remembered for Phoebe’s kindness, I’d like to be remembered for a helpful spirit like Dorcas’. Her spiritual gifts must have included a spirit of service. I imagine she was a quiet soul who probably never realized the impact she left on the ones she helped. Yet, we still remember her.
When I think about my own legacy, I want to be remembered as a woman who was given grace, and who gave it. Friends, as a former prodigal, I wasted years living for myself. It’s just no fun. The best legacy I can leave to my family and friends is the memory of a woman who was, first and foremost, a girl who loved Jesus with her whole heart. Because He passed on a legacy to me—a legacy of love and eternal life through faith in Him.
If people remember me for the way Jesus changed me, that will be the most amazing legacy I could ever hope to leave. It’s the most impactful legacy, because it’s a legacy of eternal endurance.
And one day, when I go to heaven, because of their lasting legacy, I will be able personally to thank Phoebe and Dorcas for their noteworthy role in Scripture and the lasting example their legacy left for me and countless others.