Oikouros. It’s the Greek word for “keeper at home” in Titus 2: 5. In the last post, we looked at the definition of oikouros. As we think about its meaning, it helps to understand some things we can be sure oikouros does not mean. It can’t mean that mothers of young children can never leave the house. It cannot mean that women can never do anything to add money to the family account. (Of course it cannot mean that. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 made girdles and sold them to the merchants, after all.) Neither can it mean that merely because I spend the vast majority of my hours at home that I am oikouros. We all know people who are physically at home, but who are not nurturing the children who are growing up in that home.
Sometimes when we look at verses that require thought and a personal alignment of our lives with them to determine how they apply to our decisions in 2018, we tend to dismiss those passages. After all, since the Bible does not give specific details of application, then I can’t really be sure how to correctly apply it. Since such a passage leaves room for my personal opinions about the details of what to do, then whatever I decide to do (or not do) has to be okay with God. This reasoning is presumptuous. We can’t negate a command of God just because it takes some critical thinking and decision-making on our part. Just because I may not know or understand all that a verse means for me personally does not render it meaningless. I am the finite reader. The Holy Spirit is the infinite and all-wise Author. Every admonition of the Spirit has meaning for me.
Let’s look at an example of this kind of reasoning. We read in I Timothy 2:9,10, that women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel with shamefacedness (the ability to blush) and sobriety (seriousness). But, since there is no specific mention of how many inches above the knee, cleavage or no, spandex, midriffs, bare backs, or glittering evening gowns for worship–since none of these specifics about clothing are in the verse, I must be free to just choose whatever I want to wear. I can effectively dismiss the entire teaching. But still, even in my dismissal (or yours), there will probably be some kind of clothing that’s such an egregious failure to heed the passage that we would all agree it is immodest. Maybe a skimpy two-piece swimsuit or a string bikini. Surely, although we might disagree about some kinds of attire, we would all agree that the string bikini or skimpy two-piece would be an extreme failure to adhere to I Timothy 2:9. (As you might guess, I’m convicted that there are lots of ways to violate the principle of modesty in I Timothy 2:9, but I’m laying those aside for the sake of this reasoning process.)
So let’s apply even that very weak kind of adherence to the term oikouros in Titus 2:5. Is there some kind of decision about home-keeping that we might consider an egregious failure to be oikouros— a stayer-at-home? Is there a scenario in which all of us would agree that one is not adhering to the admonition to be a keeper-at-home? How could one egregiously fail to be oikouros?
What if a mother of young children chose (the word chose is key) to spend two thirds of the waking hours of her young children, five days each week, outside of the home, leaving her children in the care of others? What if during the other four waking hours of those young children she was stressfully attempting to do all the laundry, cook and serve dinner, keep the house clean, get the children bathed and brushed, help with any homework, take time for hugs and conversation with the children and have family Bible time, all while taking proper care to be the wife described in Titus two and Ephesians five and I Peter three? If there is a way to not do Titus 3:5, would this be it?
As you can tell, I’m thinking out loud here….But I’m thinking about how a passage applies to a culture–my culture– in which it has become the norm for mothers to spend most of their daily routines away from their young children. We have allowed our thinking and maybe even our national economy to become solidly established around this norm. I’m wondering if the norm in our culture has wielded such a powerful effect on our thinking, during two generations of American women in the workplace, that women in our churches have effectively dismissed the command to be a keeper at home, a worker at home, a stayer at home, a domestic. In such a climate, it becomes difficult for women of God to step back and see His directives as commands that call us to be different from the world around us. Does oikouros call us to reject a way of life that many consider to be a necessity in our nation today?