In Titus 2, Paul instructs that elder women should teach young women to be “keepers of/at home.” It sounds simple. But physical commands have spiritual counterparts, so what does it mean to keep a home…in the spiritual sense? The Greek word translated “keepers at home” or “homemakers” is a compound word – oikouros (derived from oiko which means house, household, family) and ouros (which means guardian, watcher, warden).
A related word to ouros is phroureo which is used in 1 Peter 1:5: “[you] who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” In this passage, phroureo is translated as “kept,” but the same word is sometimes translated as guarded, shielded, protected. Notice the root of phroureo: the root word oureo (watcher/keeper); the prefix refers to primacy. So Peter is really saying that there are some “kept – above all” through the power of God. In Peter’s imagery, we don’t find any hint that “keeping” has to do with cleaning, tending, mending; rather we see the true nature of the word which has to do God guarding and protecting believers.
Now, let’s take a walk back to Genesis, where the first charge of “keeping” was gifted to humanity – to “keep” the garden. For some, this conjures up an image of the first rakes and clippers. Perhaps on the physical level, that may be true, but spiritually the garden has long been a metaphor for “children.” Children are a wife and husband’s little ones; but that metaphor deepens spiritually to “children” who are reborn/baptized into the image of God. “Keeping” is a beautiful commission to women. We are house-keepers… guardians and protectors of our homes. For many of us, our homes do indeed include our genetic offspring, but housekeeping in the spiritual sense broadens to a protection of the image of God as it is reflected through us and the ones around us.
Paul recognizes the woman as the guardian of the home, which perhaps is the reason he calls her the master of the home in 1 Tim 5:14: “I will that the younger women marry, bear children, manage the home (oikodespotein), give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Oikodespotein is translated in lots of ways, but looking at the original Greek gives a feeling for the word; oikos means “house,” and despotes means absolute master. So, the translation is literally “absolute master of the house,” which is a far cry from the typical watered-down housekeeper/homemaker image that is often read into the verse. The word is applied to men as well, so we see can infer God’s intention to maintain equality between the husband and wife in the household, whereas the husband and wife function as one flesh and one oikodespotein. Funny, though…many of us know the man is the “master of the house,” but how often have we heard the wife referred to by her joint-heir title? She, too, is “master of the house.”
It is not an easy commission from our Lord to keep and master the house of God! The physical world needs washing, scrubbing, vacuuming, etc. But the magnitude of the charge remains. I believe the scripture speaks for itself on this issue. The house of God has many children, so guard them well. With that in mind, I pray that you may always be blessed in your keeping of the house.