Acts 9:36-43 Living With People Who Smell

Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.”39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him tothe upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Living With People Who Smell

I have put on weight in the time that it has taken for my wife and myself to write a book.  I weighed in at 160 lbs before we started and now weigh in at 172.  I have decided to work on it and lose the weight, partly because it is more healthy and glorifying to God, and partly because Amelia (my 3-year-old) keeps asking to smell my belly button.  This all started during a family cuddle when she saw my belly.  Daryl (my 6-year-old) exclaimed ‘Belly!’  Then just rolled into a rhythmic, “Daddy’s belly!  It’s big, and fat, and smelly!”  He moved on to something else, but the ideas stuck in Amelia’s head.  Daddy now has a fascinating, big, fat, smelly belly.  I know that it is grace, then, that allows me to have hugs and kisses from my two children.  I don’t deserve it because of my big, fat, smelliness.

On a more serious note, Dorcas and Simon would have smelled bad.  One because they were dead and the other because they were a tanner.  A tannery was often located outside a town because the process of tanning a hide was so unpleasant to smell.  Peter decides to stay with someone whose smell would have been really bad.

We often distance ourselves from people because of such superficial things like looks or smell.  We may not do so consciously, but we should assess the situation.  Are all my friends aware of how to take care of their bodies?  Anyone who commits to junior high ministry knows that students in junior high are at that age where sweat begins to stink.  You can go into a room full of junior high boys and sometimes smell them before you see them.  Some find this to be too unpleasant to cope with.  Others leap in.  Sometimes an elderly person may stop cleaning themselves effectively.  Do we complain to our friends or reach out in love?  Is there anyone who you know who doesn’t smell great?  Do you treat them like you do everyone else?

This line of thinking is probably not why these passages were written, but it is embedded.  A Christian loves all people no matter how they smell.


Dear Father, let us associate with people who are unpleasant to be around.  Help us to acknowledge that there are times when we are difficult.  Let us not walk away from people in need because of dirt or disease or awkward behavior.


  1. Where was Peter located?
  2. Describe the people he met?
  3. How does Peter’s lack of prejudice open doors?
  4. How are you around people with poor hygiene?
  5. What kind of professions today lead to bad smells or dirt?  How do we view people who work in those jobs?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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