Oikouros – Keeper of the Home

Titus 2:4-5 "That they may teach the young women...to be...keepers at home..."

The word for "keepers at home" is "oikouros" - the noun. Strong's says: the (watch or) keeper of the house; keeping at home and taking care of household affairs. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

This word "oikouros" (in that form) is used only one time in the New Testament. (the rest of this paragraph is an edit with more information) There are two parts to this word; the root word is "oikos" (house) and "ouros" (a guard, beware) and. "Oikos" is used 114 times.

In addition to Strong's we have secular writings to tell us how the word "oikouros" was used. The word "oikouros" is used to describe Athena, the Greek goddess. "Oikouros" (home- protecting) ophis (serpent). Notice the statue of Athena to the right with the serpent beside her (behing the shield); she is dressed for battle and she carries a weapon and a shield.

The ancient Greeks thought they had ""Oikouros ophis" protecting their homes. The goddess of wisdom, war, arts, industry, justice and skill. Paul would have known of this reference when he wrote his letter to Titus.

There is a verb form of the root word, "oikodespoteo" that Strong's defines as "to rule a household, manage family affairs"; this is our job.

"Oikouros" is no goddess. "Oikouros" is us! We, as women, have the God-granted responsibility of guarding our homes against those who would do it harm.

Athena was viewed by the Greeks as a strong being and I believe that God intends for wives to be strong when it comes to the keeping of our homes.

We can also look to the Old Testament for what it means to "keep" There is a word, (transliterated) shamar {shaw-mar'}. It means: to keep, have charge of, to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life.

It was the word that Cain used, "Am I my brother's keeper (shamar)?"

The word "shamar" is used 469 times in the Old testament and like "oikouros", it is not a description of wimps. It is used mostly as a verb and describes the keeping of things (and people) that are dear.

Psa. 41:2 "the LORD protects(shamar) him and keeps him alive..."

Psa. 91:11 "For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard(shamar) you in all your ways.

Pro. 19:8 "Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;
he who keeps(shamar) understanding will discover good."

These are not descriptions of "second class citizens"! These are God, angels and wise men who are doing the "keeping."

"Keeper of the home" does not (repeat, does not) mean that women should be Mrs. Cleaver.

Going back to the Christ and the church model, if the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church, the wife is to keep her home with the same resolve as the angels have when protecting us.

"Oikouros" does not mean "housewife", although that is a part of it."Oikouros" is a pro-active, offensive (as opposed to defensive) guardian and protector of the home. Weak women can't do this. Eve was unprepared for the attack of the dragon and today, wives need to be prepared for the dragon in their homes.
It's part of the dance. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He does his part; she does her part.

(by the way, the image is from Nashville, Tennessee. The statue of Athena is in the replica of the Pantheon. Her spear is an interesting artifact - a local McDonald's donated their flagpole. We visited this site a few years ago)

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19 thoughts on “Oikouros – Keeper of the Home

  1. Wife of a non-believer

    I don't know if this will get through, due to the fake e-mail address. Obviously I cannot risk having a response sent to my home computer.

    I don't want to give out too much personal information but will add that ours is a long marriage and I am a stay-at-home wife with grown children.

    Ellen, I am very interested in your studies in this area. I am looking for information for the role of the wife of a non-believer. So often I read about how he does his part and she does her part. What if he doesn't do his part?

    In order to honor her husband, I believe that a Christian woman in my situation is not able to blog about this topic. But I can guarantee that we are out here searching for information.

  2. It got through, but I needed to approve it (but I think I have it set so that I have to apparove all commenters, just the first time).

    Years ago (my son was in kindergarten) I was going to church, my husband was not. At the time, I was in denial, I wouldn't have called him "unsaved", but "seriously backslidden". Now, I'd called "unsaved".

    My pastor's wife and I had coffee once a week and went, chapter by chapter, through <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310426219/sr=8-1/qid=1151853687/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-8268557-8795357?ie=UTF8">Beloved Unbeliever by Jo Berry.

    This book was a huge help to me. Art attended church with me for several years; he sang in the choir and stuff like that. But his attitude at home didn't change and I believe he was like a chamelian - able to change his colors along with his location. It wasn't until the 6 or so weeks before he died that his heart and attitude showed a change. This book helped keep me on track.

    That said, even unbeliever are coming to understand that there are differences in the sexes.

  3. Wife of a non-believer

    Thank you for responding, Ellen. I am rejoicing with you that your husband's heart and attitude showed a change before his death.

    I read Beloved Unbeliever many years ago and Jo Berry's advice is what I try to live by. In fact, this book is the only good source of biblical advice I have encountered, ever, on the subject of living with an unbeliever (even though that word bothers me and I prefer non-believer for some reason).

    In the last couple of years my husband is showing some understanding that there are differences in the sexes. This is thrilling for me. He was raised with feminist ideals, as we baby boomers mostly were. No gentlemanly courtesies such as holding open doors, walking on the traffic side of the sidewalk, etc. Now he often holds doors open for me and walks on the traffic side of the sidewalk when we go for a stroll together.

    I love to be a keeper at home and my heart's desire, secondary to his salvation, is that my husband would value what I do and let me know that he does ;-).

  4. Hello again - I'll keep you in my prayers - if you want to email me, feel free (ellen at mzellen dot come)

    Gina, I dont think the gender roles in marriage have a day to day impact on single women, but it certainly changes the way she might look at a potential spouse.

    There are some men that simply would not interest me because of their views on gender roles.

    Plus, I think that how you see gender roles in the "little church" has an impact on how you see gender roles in the big church. The denomination I'm in allows each classis (or district) to choose whether or not that entire district will allow women in pastor and elder positions. The classis I'm in does not.

    My understanding of gender roles had a large impact on choosing a church home - I passed over a large number of churches because of the sex of their head pastor.

  5. gina

    But, if we are created by God for a certain role (help meet, etc), are we out of God's will by being single?

  6. My belief is that if we choose to stay single out of rebellion, that is sin. One example would be if a person believed that a certain view of gender roles is correct and would rather stay single than live under that plan of God.

    If you are open to marriage if a gentleman comes along that sees life and God the same way you do, but that opportunity hasn't happened, I don't see how anybody would say that's not in God's will.

    Also, if there is a specific and valid reason to delay marriage (school, children, a move, etc.), I don't see a problem there.

    As with many other things, the heart is the issue. If a person remains single out of selfishness, that is a problem. If a person is single because they believe that God's timing or hand is simply not there at this time, that is not a problem.

  7. I should add - if a woman is the head of household, that does not relieve her of the job of "oikouros" - it is vital that I be the "keeper of the home" (although you could also say "guardian of the home".)

  8. gina

    Ok, but given the fact that women were created to fulfill that role, do you think it is God's will for a woman to be single indefinitely? Can a woman be called to singleness?

  9. 1 Cor. 7:17 "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

    God said, "It is not good for man to be alone", but we cannot say that it is a sin for a man to be single - else John the Baptist, Paul, even Christ would have been in sin. If the male and female population is roughly equal and some men are called to singleness, it would stand to reason that some women must be also.

    What I do know is that where there is no Biblical mandate (the gender roles in a marriage, church, etc.) concerning marriage, the call on a person's life is between them and God.

  10. Gina,

    With the exception of some aberrant teachings in the first couple centuries of Christianity, the Church has, on the whole, largely encouraged marriage and frowned upon intentional *avoidance* of marriage. The only exception to that view was those who were pouring themselves into fulltime missionary work. The Westminster confession codified this in addressing what it termed "undue delay of marriage" (Q.139). For most of Christian history they were casting a leery eye toward those who willfully refused the idea of marriage; thus it was deemed that they were setting a bad example, resisting God's overall plan to be fruitful, setting themselves up for sexual temptation, or all three.

    But note that most of the talk is directed toward those who are *refusing* marriage, not just being unmarried. This is referring to those who are married to their careers and don't wish to be bothered with having competing commitments at home that infringe on their "all me, all the time" self-centered life. Another category might be the increasing rates of single professionals (mainly women) with no intention of marriage now adopting children. Another category might be the throngs of people who are simply too insecure (sin of fear) to get deeply involved with someone of the opposite sex beyond superficial friendship. On the men's side (and I'm writing as a guy here) the men today simply do NOT grow up! Boys have girlfriends. Men have wives and responsibilities. In either case, both genders go to school until their mid-20's, then spend a few years building a career, and marriage is deemed an unwise interruption to the all-important self-building process. The idea of building a life together is out, individual self-sufficiency is in. Marriage is seen as an optional enhancement to a completed life, rather than a formational part of whom we are and who we become. The church has either adopted or at least tolerated these cultural falsehoods regarding marriage, thus the outcry from Christian leaders about the “marriage crisis.”

    Sadly for us singles, the war by so-called Evangelicals to "defend the family" has now come full circle and now anyone not in a marriage and having babies is suddenly made to feel like they're not even real Christians, or at least don’t totally belong in today's "Family Community Church of [insert city name here]". I've seen the term "familyolotry" (family+idolatry) to describe the Evangelical obsession with preaching "family" (rather than Jesus) as the rock on which a "moral" society is built. Also, as Arminian beliefs have gained majority acceptance in the modern church, singles who are content with where the Sovereign hand of God has them in life are made to feel as if they’re “not in God’s will” (or something like that). They don’t say you’re in “sin” (because they have no Scripture to prove that charge) but rather they insinuate that you’re in the new man-made category called “not in God’s perfect will for your life” (a phrase and concept found no where in the Bible). Hence you may feel like you’re somehow fallen from God’s good grace because you’re not married. Horse-feathers. If you are a Christ-following woman of God who holds to Biblical standards before yoking yourself with a man in marriage, then you have no apologies for being a woman of integrity – single or otherwise. If you do your part in both preparing yourself to be a and in looking for a Godly spouse, you can trust the a Sovereign Lord can and will do His part in Heaven. For such a stand, you need not repent.

    By they way, when one of the smug married pulls the old, “You should get married, you really should” line, my response is, “Well, Mrs. So-n-so, if your husband were killed tonight, who do you see around here as a suitable replacement that you’d trust with your life as you do your husband?” Of course the answer is always, “Well, um, *choke choke* I can’t think of any.” To which I reply, “Good then. So you’ll understand if I don’t share your attitude that in a reprobate world where Christianity is adrift like never before that Christ-following spouses don’t just grow on trees, eh?” That usually shut’s ‘em up good as they realize their folly.

    If you have some time, I found the following commentary balanced and insightful: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/have-we-said-too-much-about-marriage-that-is


    PS to Ellen: Good job on the blog transition 🙂

  11. Can a woman be called to singleness?


    I would think she could for a time. Remember that WAY too much is made over the "gift" of singleness Paul mentioned in 1 Cor. 7:7. People talk about that mention of a “gift” as if it's a normative thing that any of us could be hit with. Yes, in verse 7 Paul does say that he wishes everyone could be single as he was, and in verse 26 he says "it is good for a person to remain as he is." In sermons I often hear that cited to singles as why their singleness is better than marriage. But those words are nearly always divorced (pun intended) from the Paul's qualifier to that recommendation: "I think that in view of the present [or ‘impending’] distress..." Paul is only extolling singleness at that time because of "the present distress" in the Church. Theologians offer varying theories as to what distress he was referring to. But regardless of the source of the "distress," Paul felt it necessary to explain this exceptional advice based on the distressful situation facing the Church, circa 50-60 A.D. When and whom to marry is one of the biggest decisions in life. Marriage was the defacto path of life throughout Scripture. If Paul’s recommendation introduced such a profound change in the Scriptural pattern of life then it would appear as a core teaching throughout the New Testament. Instead, it’s as a single, circumstantially qualified reference, clearly applicable only to certain gifted individuals, appearing in only one portion of one of the earliest books of the New Testament. No one should be citing 1 Cor 7:7 or 7:26 outside of Paul’s advice, but they usually do. When someone tells you that “it’s better to remain single,” just ask them, “Why? What’s the distress?” You’ll find they look at you bewildered, unaware that they (quite literally) only know half of what they’re talk about, since they’re only quoting half a verse.


  12. gina

    I think I could be guilty of some (all?) of the wrong reasons you cite for singleness. Something to think about...

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  14. Clay

    I googled "Oikouros" and found this entry.
    Very uplifting Bible Study.


    (course I had to see your newer stuff...
    I commented on the parallels between slave/master and wife/husband...
    There is a scripture which says:
    "every man should be ruler over his own household"

    Think about that for a minute.
    Does it sound right and biblical?
    Do you agree with it?

    Ok, now look at the message in context:
    "every man should be ruler over his own household"
    (in case I didn't format the link right, you can find the context by searching the quote in the NIV)

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