For over a half-century, we have witnessed our society depart from God's will in regard to the differing roles and responsibilities that individuals are to play based upon their gender. Feminism, more than any other ungodly philosophy, has motivated American and European societies to reject the fundamental Biblical teaching on gender roles. To even suggest, in this 21st Century, that there are different roles and responsibilities assigned by the Lord for each gender is blasphemous to our secular culture.
Tragically, most churches and their leaders have felt a need to downplay or even reject much of the Scriptural instruction on gender roles for fear of being labeled sexist and promoters of gender prejudice and 'oppression'. For example, decades ago, most Christian pastors, teachers, and counselors in effect tore-out of their Bibles the portion of Titus 2:5 which enjoins that women (especially younger women) are to be “keepers at home.” Even those pastor/teachers who have claimed to be 'conservative' or 'fundamentalist' in their approach to the Scriptures have so distorted the meaning of the text so as to render its application void.
In this article, I want to address the meaning and application of Paul's admonition that women are to be “keepers at home.”
To gain a surer understanding of what it means for the women to be “keepers at home”, I think we should consider the Greek text. We need to discern the concept conveyed by the Greek term.
The phrase “keepers at home” is the translation of the single Greek term “oikouros”. This is a compound of 'oikos” (house) and 'ouros' (guardian, watcher). During the classical Greek period, it described being stationed at a location (e.g., house, temple, community) and ensuring that the affairs meant to be accomplished at that location were able to be accomplished by maintaining its protection and security. Liddell and Scott claim it carried with it, in ancient times, the idea of one acting as a watchdog (8th ed. 1032).
As is so often the case with words, over time the meaning and use of the word “oikouros” evolved. By the time the New Testament was written and extending forward into the period of the Early Church Fathers, the term had lost its meaning of supplying physical protection and security to a house. Rather, it took on the meaning of one who abides within the house and tends to its affairs as a domestic (whether bond or free), a house-keeper, a homemaker.
Many, today, teach that “oikouros” does not imply that the woman has to abide in the home as a domestic. They assert that as long as a woman can see to it that household chores are done and the family's basic needs are met, the woman can still obey Paul's instruction even if she is employed outside of the home. However, there isn't any grammatical or lexical ground to support such a leap.
One must adhere to what the term meant when it was originally chosen. The fact is, “oikouros” does carry the idea that the woman is to abide in the home. The vast majority of Greek experts agree with the definition of “oikouros” as stated in Walter Bauer's 'A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature' as “staying at home” and being a “domestic”.
It is also noteworthy that those who have translated Titus 2:5 from the Greek text (Textus Receptus) into our English versions such as the KJV, have rendered the term as “keepers AT home” rather than simply 'keepers OF THE home.”
There is another piece of evidence that supports the view that Paul was teaching that women are to remain at home rather than be employed outside of the home. The bulk of the earlier, older surviving Greek manuscripts of Titus 2:5 have the term “oikourgos” rather than “oikouros”. “Oikourgos” is a compound of 'oikos” (house) and 'ergos' (workers). Our newer English translations, such as the ASV, ERV, NASB, NIV, etc., are derived from these earlier manuscripts and, therefore, read that the women are to be “workers at home.”
It is likely that “oikourgos”, a rather rare word, was the original term used by Paul and that later copyists chose to substitute it with the more common word “oikouros.” Whether one or the other word is the original doesn’t make much difference, however, as both oikourgos and oikouros have a similar meaning. Both words are about staying at home and domesticity; but, oikourgos has the added meaning of being productive while staying at home.
Respected Greek authorities overwhelmingly agree on the terms' meaning. For example - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Lexicon states that the woman is to be “a stayer at home, i.e., domestically inclined.” Moulton's Greek Dictionary says she is to be a “house-worker”. William Mounce's The Biblical Greek Primer has the woman being “busy at home, domestic; one who is occupied in domestic affairs.” Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament states that Paul is teaching that the Christian women are to be “keeping at home and taking care of household affairs.”
Does this mean that the woman is completely prohibited from leaving the home? Does this mean that the woman cannot engage in any activities outside the home? No, the term does not support that extreme position. It means that the home is the focal point of the woman's life and career. It means that the home is where the woman employs her time, energy and abilities. In his Biblical Greek Primer, William Mounce says that the woman is to be a “domestic”,
Being “occupied in domestic affairs” means that the woman is not occupied in non-household affairs. This would include everything from spending a good deal of time socializing, gossiping, and sticking her nose in other people's business to seeking or having a job or career outside the home.
The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 is all about her household. She leaves the home occasionally to buy and sell, but never seeks non-domestic employment. She earns money by working at home – Verse 24 “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.” Women who work outside the home cannot use the “virtuous woman” as an example to support their choice to have non-domestic employment.
Sociologists have found the wisdom behind the instruction of Titus 2:5.
First, married women who are in the workforce have higher rates of divorce as opposed to married women who are 'keepers and workers at home'. There are a few reasons for this. First, women who work outside the home feel that they should have greater say on how 'their' earnings are spent. This often leads to financial conflicts. Financial conflict is the second most common reason for divorces. Secondly, a married woman who enters the workforce feels less dependent upon her husband for financial/legal security and high self-esteem. Such women are far more likely to divorce their husbands. Thirdly, women who spend a great deal of time with other men in the workplace are far more likely to develop intimate relationships with them which leads to affairs and divorces. Likewise, the women at the workplace are a temptation for the men to pursue.
Secondly, mothers who choose to work outside the home harm the emotional, mental and social development of their children. A secure mother–child attachment is associated with positive peer interactions, social behaviors, emotions, and healthy exploratory behaviors. Children are most likely to experience healthy social–emotional development when they are secure in their attachment to their mothers and when their mothers exhibit attentive sensitivity throughout their childhood. When children spend more time in the care of someone other than their mothers, those mothers tend to show lower levels of sensitivity and there are fewer positive interactions between mother and child (Among those with children under age 18, 40% of working mothers say they always feel rushed). As a result, these children are more likely to experience attachment insecurity, which can lead to negative moods (depression and anxiety) and behaviors.
The percentage of mothers, with children under 3 years old, who have outside employment is 63 percent. The rate rises to 66% with children under 6 years old. The percentage rate of mothers, with children 6 to 17 years old, that have outside employment is 75 percent. Unmarried mothers have higher labor force participation rates than married mothers.
Researchers emphasize that many millions of children are in daycare, and for 60 percent of them, the care-giving is neither sensitive nor responsive to the children's needs. Even high-quality care did not reduce the number of behavior problems among those in childcare. Entry into child care before the age of one and continued child care throughout early childhood years are associated with less social competence and cooperation, more problem behaviors, negative moods, aggression, and conflict. Researchers now know that the nature of daycare arrangements (more than ten hours a week spent in the care of someone other than the mother) has a long reach. The negative effects of hours spent in non-maternal care last throughout childhood and adolescence. More time spent in center-based child-care led to reports of more conflict—with parents and teacher. The greater the amount of time children spent in childcare in kindergarten, the more their teachers later reported that they do not work independently, do not use their time wisely, and do not complete their work promptly in grade school.
One of the biggest benefits cited by parents for day care is that it helps to socialize children. However, research has suggested that the opposite is true, and that children who spend a lot of time in day care centers have weaker social skills. Children who spend long hours in day care are more likely to show problematic social adjustments. These children may have less social competence, be less inclined to cooperate in a group, have negative moods and be more prone to conflict. How skilled children are with peers and how well they solve problems with them was negatively impacted by many hours in daycare.
Our culture has dramatically changed. Forty years ago (1977), a full two-thirds of Americans agreed that it was “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” Today, a generation later, a plurality of adults (42%) say mothers working part time is ideal, and only one-third say it’s best for young children if their mothers do not work at all outside of the home.
The top reason I hear by men and women alike to justify women working outside the home is that in our present economy it is impossible for a family to survive on a single paycheck. However, this is a very weak excuse if one is serious about living according to godly standards and values rather than worldly standards and values. A considerable number of Christian men and women have fallen pray to worldly materialism. They yearn for and seek fancy homes, plush furniture and fine home furnishings, the latest entertainment systems and programming, the most up-to-date technological gadgets, the current most popular fashions, the latest vehicle models with all of the available bells and whistles, etc. Such is a far cry from one of the most basic tenets of Christianity – live simply and invest your resources in things that will pay eternal dividends. Colossians 3:1-2, “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 1 Timothy 6:8, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Ephesians 5:5, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
It is interesting that the 4th Century preacher, John Chrysostom, said that one of the reasons a Christian wife/mother will be a “keeper in the home” is because she “practices management of the house and she is not about luxury.” (Chrysostom, Homilies on Titus; Homily IV )
I am encouraged by the fact that the number of stay-at-home mothers is increasing. There are 10.5 million stay-at-home mothers in our Nation. That is about 30% of mothers. Two thirds of the stay-at-home mothers have husbands that work. Married stay-at-home mothers are more likely than single or cohabiting stay-at-home mothers to say they are not employed because they are caring for their families (85% said this in 2012).
In summation, Titus 2:5 does command that Christian wives/mothers are not to seek employment outside of the home. They are to be “workers at home”. Modern research has 'discovered' the wisdom behind the Lord's injunction of women entering the labor-force. When women work outside the home it weakens marriages and harms the normal inner-development of children. It is time for pastors/preachers/counselors to stand with the Word of God rather than go along with the trends and values of our worldly culture. Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”