One would have thought this piece of a sentence that has been taken out of context for so many years in Christiandom might have finally been left behind. Yet I continually see it pop up in online writings with the implication that wives are to stay home and “keep house” as if that were their only allowed work in life.
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. KJV
5 to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited. NET
5 and that they be prudent, chaste, sober, having care of the house, benign, subject to their husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. WYCLIFF 1380
This is in Paul’s letter to Titus, explaining a little of why he had left Titus in Crete to organize the church and find those older (literally seniors) who were willing to serve as guides and overseers. In 1 Timothy he refers to them as presiding elders (1 Tim. 5:17). From what I read, Crete was around half the size of the Big Island of Hawaii, where I live. So there would be a significant number of groups of people that would need presiding Elders to help supervise, guide and serve the people. This was to be a daunting task since it is noted that one of Cetan’s own non believing prophets said, ““Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
In chapter two Paul is telling Titus to be sure what he speaks is sound doctrine. And then details some of the admonishments Titus should be giving to the seniors in general. Older people should be living lives of wisdom and discretion. Older believers should, by their lives and words, be teaching those younger discretion, reverence, wisdom, and to be good examples of God’s influence in our lives. While Paul gives some details these are not meant in the sense of outlining rigid rules for the genders, but rather pointing out what common sense godly living looked like in those days. It would be difficult for Paul to be implying that all women should stay at home and keep house when so many women traveled around the country with him ministering God’s Word to everyone. Paul even sent Phoebe with a large group of men and women to travel to Rome and read his letter to them.
Paul uses two words referencing wives duties at home. In Titus 2:5 we have oikouros, literally home-see-er. In 1 Tim. 5:14 we have oikodespotein 1, literally home-owning or home-managing. Neither of these gives us a picture of subservient duty. Rather, this is a picture of worthy responsibility. You may have noticed that the combination of Greek words in oikodespotein is oiko meaning house, and despoteo2 (G1203 in Strongs) meaning ruler of the house or householder. Despoteo is used 12 times in the NT, always referring to a guide of the household. 1 Tim. 5:14 where it is clearly used of the woman. And that with no apologies.
Thus, our brief look into Crete and Paul’s words to Titus do not reveal some kind of admonition that all wives should be confined to housekeeping duties. Rather, I would say that Titus was to be admonishing elder believers to be living responsible lives of good examples to younger believers, including that first women take care of their own home duties (whatever that might be around 50-60 A.D). And as well older men should be living so as to teach younger men to behave in similar ways including being sober. In all ways all believers should be living life in ways revealing good works and a good knowledge of the presence of God in their lives.
NOW LET ME SPEAK PERSONALLY! I tend to write in a teacher/preacher sort of style. But when I talk I do share a lot of personal stuff, that often get's left out in my writing. So I just wanted to add that I've had a lot of sometimes horrific experiences dealing with this patriarchal misreading of Scripture. I personally enjoy my home up and running and comfortable to live in. But I think that if that were all I had to look forward to being a single woman (even if I were married and had a child) I think I would sink into a terrible depression asking God if that were all there is to life.
There was a man from my church who was male authority minded and made a suggestion to me. He was reading a Costco flyer and turning to me suggested that I might like that. This man hated the idea that I taught and preached in our church at the time. Looking in his face and eyes, all I heard was the suggestion that since I was a woman I must like to shop and. I didn't say anything because I was speechless. I suppose everyone likes to shop when they need something. And some women do shop looking for "something" to brighten their days. That isn't me. For all the years I have known this man, he has never "seen" me.
Even today when I am old enough to be a grandmother (and am) I cannot imagine anyone lovingly suggesting to me that my place in the Body of Christ is care-taking or managing a home. And yet they do. I've tried at various times to talk with those who have mismanaged the Scriptures this way. But especially the men are just not interested in hearing about it. Many men have put themselves up on a pedestal that they expect the women to "keep" shiny clean and they like it that way.
As long as women are willing to be dominated in that way, this small group of people will continue to teach this. Now this is not to say that some women cannot have a fulfilling and rich life being primarily homebodies. It isn't about that. It is about choice. We are all unique and really incredibly cool people. Our life styles should reflect who we really are and not somebody else's ideas of who we should be. God is a creative God and every human soul He creates is beautiful and should be allowed to thrive.
NOTES: 1) scripture4all.org 2) blueletterbible.org; G1203 in Strongs; despotes in Concordant Greek Elements pg 77 - owner