"Keepers at Home"

 

     One would have to be totally out of touch with reality not to know that some of the sweeping changes in America have revolved around women. The various feminist movements have accomplished a lot, mainly regarding the repositioning and defining of the woman in American culture. Little by little, major religions have relented in their teaching as to the role of women and have offered concessions to the feminists (addendum 1). A verse that especially addresses the work, role, and influence of women is Titus 2: 5. The verse reads as follows:

     "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit. 2: 3-5).

     Rather than denigrate older women, as our culture often does, the Bible sets forth their important role. They are to be teachers of the younger women. How urgently we need such role models and teachers today! What they are to teach the young women is listed in the passage. In a word, the teaching of the older women is to lift and sublimate the younger women from just sex objects and walking in the tawdry to lofty spiritual accomplishments and pursuits. This teaching thus offered by the older women is so important that to neglect it results in the word of God being blasphemed or spoken against. Be it immediately known and appreciated that Paulís teaching is not just endemic to that present culture, but is presented with all the features of universal truth and timeless application.

     There are concededly in Titus 2: 3-5 several qualities enjoined concerning which some today would experience shock and take strong issue. The matter of "chaste," "keepers at home," and "obedient to their own husbands" are viewed with distain, especially by those influenced by some of the womenís movements. Yet, they are taught and commanded. Based on the titled of this study, our obvious focus for the purpose of examination and exegesis is, "keepers at home."

     Keepers at home. The Greek from which "keepers at home" is rendered is, oikourgous. The Greek oikourgous is a compound word, made up of first oikos, which means "house" and then ergou, "work" (the Westcott and Hort text, used by many translators). Hence, "worker at home." The Received Text (King James, etc.) has the Greek oikourous. Oikourous is also a compound word, again, oikos, "house" and ouros, "keeper." Hence, the translation, "keeper at home." Neither oikourgous nor oikourous is found elsewhere in the Greek New Testament. Oikourous is, however, common in classical Greek and has the meaning of, "stayers at home."

     The commandment "keepers at home" is expressive of the godly womanís career. It is sad, indeed, that so many women, even professing Christians were influenced and carried away by the more radical womenís movements. Alas, many left the home for which they were so wonderfully designed and created and entered into the secular field to pursue what they viewed as the ultimate endeavors. Many of these women ended up frustrated and alone. There are innate qualities and longings within most women that can only be satisfied within their God appointed assignment. Consider:

     "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Gen. 3: 16).

     Many have become so far removed from the Bible that they have absolutely no concept and, moreover, no appreciation for the teaching that the role of woman is basically that of marrying, being in subjection to her husband, having children, and managing the home. Yet, this is precisely what the Bible teaches. Paul taught in speaking of women:

     "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (I Tim. 2: 15).

     Relative to "keepers at home," the late scholar David Lipscomb commented thus regarding Titus 2: 5:

     "That they be keepers or managers at home; keep a neat, attractive house that will make her husband and children love home. Christian women should be the best of housekeepers and should be models to all who know them" (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Vol. 10, p. 273).

     Many sociologists agree that much of the decline in America points to changes that have occurred in the family, the core of which is the wife/mother. Ethics and morals in America have undergone serious and perhaps irreversible change. So many women are working out of the home that the family structure has too often collapsed. The godly woman has always been the very foundation and pivotal point of the family. She has kept the family functioning and operative. She has often been the main one to offer the majority of training and guidance to the children. The godly mother has through the years been the voice in the family who reads the Bible and provides spiritual guidance. It is she who provides the important example to her daughters as to what a lady, wife, and mother should be. She also influences by example as to the quality in a wife for which her sons are to look when they seek a wife.

     When we consider the changes in the family, it is no wonder and shock that we are experiencing what we are. So many families are utterly dysfunctional. The smaller children are dropped off at day care and picked-up around five in the afternoon. From about three until after five, many school children are unattended while home. The family hurries to have ordered pizza and usually eat at different times and in a state of chaos. The house is untidy and each child is left to go their own way, usually watching television programming that teaches violence, disrespect for women, and all manner of disgusting language. The career wife/mother is so tired in the evenings that about all she can do is last until bedtime. The next day is a duplicate. The weeks, months, and years pass and all of a sudden, the children are grown, replicating the life-style that they have learned.

     Many today are not even characterized by the semblance of a family atmosphere seen in the above. Lack of marital responsibility is alarmingly common and growing in America. Today, so many just shack up and produce illegitimate children. The too common and growing practice today that has pervaded all sectors of society is what used to be seen mainly in the ghettoes and slums. Products of such then act out what they have experienced and we have a vicious, self-destructive cycle in place.

     The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31: 10-31. The greatest teaching and example that we have recorded in the Bible of "keepers at home" is seen in the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. A cursory examination of Proverbs 31: 10-31 reveals the emphasis and priority of God's woman: her family. She is seen busy in activities that pertain to the good and well being of her husband and children. She does good to her husband and not evil and "she riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household" (vs. 12; 15). She is not concerned with the threats of nature, because she has made ready for her family against nature (vs. 21). The fact of her primary concern being her family is seen in the language: "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness" (vs. 27).

     The characteristics of the virtuous woman. When we consider the characteristics of God's woman, we can see why she is "ishshal chayil," a woman of force and power. Let us briefly mention how she is described and appreciate the fact that these are not surface traits, but they actually emanate from her character. She fears the Lord; hence she is characterized by piety (vs. 30). Purity and loyalty abound (vs. 10, 11, 12). She is kind, benevolent, and selfless (vs. 26, 20, 15, 20, 27). As opposed to bitterness and complaining, cheerfulness is seen (vs. 21). She is wise and dignified (vs. 26; 22).

     An extreme view regarding Titus 2: 5. Some lacking spiritual equilibrium take "keepers at home" to the extreme, saying that it is always and automatically a sin for a woman to have any pursuit outside of the literal house. An outstanding characteristic of the virtuous woman is her industry. This zeal and resourcefulness is seen in the promotion of her household (vs. 13, 15, 19, 21, 27). She is a manufacturer, merchant, and landowner (vs. 24; 24; 16). She even cultivates the soil (vs. 16). Herein, please allow me to gently issue a challenge: Who said the godly wife and mother cannot be involved in enterprise outside her physical house? Look again at the virtuous woman (vs. 24; 16). She is presented as what we would call an entrepreneur. She is involved in such enterprise, yet, does not neglect her family and what she does, she does for the family!

     In closing, the notion that the woman is relatively unimportant in her God assigned role of "keepers at home" is tragically mistaken. The importance of godly women cannot be over emphasized; this is seen in Proverbs 31. Her role transcends that of corporate business and executive order. The misguided may "run businesses" that produce some product that might have some measure of relevance to society, but the godly wife/mother plays a major part in determining what is society and its quality! Running a household can have far more reaching consequences than running a mundane business.  (Related reading would be, "The Truth about Woman".)

     Addendum 1: There is no question that women have been abused, overlooked, and often relegated to a position just a little short of slavery. The work force has been greatly guilty of often under paying women who do the same work as their male counterparts. Many bullying husbands have taken advantage of the "weaker vessel" and have also placed women in the position of simply maid, sex provider, and baby sitter. This article in no way endorses such and, moreover, the Bible does not teach such a view and role of women.

     Addendum 2: As one can see, there is only one letter different in these two words and it is difficult to determine with complete certainty which of the two is the actual word in the First Century manuscripts. After full consideration, though, they are basically tantamount. Based on such texts as Proverbs 31: 10-31 that set forth feminine virtue and wifely duties, oikkourous would not simply mean one who "stays home" in contradistinction to "home worker." I say this because the godly wife is active and not passive in her role of domesticity. It could be that an ancient scribe realized such matters and made a one letter change in the word. Hence, oikourgous instead of oikourous. Even the translators of the Received Text, though, appear to strive to bring out the contextually understood activity resident in oikourous, the word in the Received Text, by rendering it, "keepers at home" and not simply, "stayers at home."