I learned a new word at church a few months ago. The word was “oikos.” When I first heard the word, it reminded me of the sound made by a bunch of pigs. “Oink! Oink!” However, this is the Greek word for house or household. The meaning of the word can be broader than I had perceived.
Oikos is defined as a house, the material building.
Jesus says in Matthew 9:2, 6-7, “’Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you…. Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ And he arose and departed to his house.” This is the account of Jesus healing a paralytic through forgiveness, but what I notice is that Jesus told the healed man to return to his house or oikos. Jesus was giving him directions to a structural destination. However, I can only imagine the impact this man had upon those who lived in his house when he arrived home! His oikos was not only the building where he lived but also a place where he found a group of people who were willing to listen to his testimony. This leads me to a more inclusive definition of oikos.
Oikos is defined as a family or lineage.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:31 is the most familiar scripture to me that uses the word household or oikos. I think of it as referring to one’s immediate family. For example, if either the husband or wife in a marriage comes to personally know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, this is a promise for him or her to claim for his or her spouse who has not yet made this personal commitment. This verse can also be claimed by parents for children who have chosen to go their own way. I notice the second word in the definition I quoted at the beginning of this section is lineage. This reminds me of the genealogy or lineage of Jesus as found in Matthew 1. This is a big household – and an important one! Reflecting upon the Christian heritage I have been blessed to be a part of through multiple generations, I remember another scripture. Paul writes in II Timothy 1:5, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” I am privileged to identify with the family heritage of Timothy. However, my understanding of oikos continues to expand.
Oikos is defined as your surrounding area of influence.
This is the concept Alex presented to us at church. This definition includes not only my home and family members, but also expands to a much broader area. My understanding of oikos now includes neighbors, friends, and anyone with whom I come into regular contact. When my husband and I make food deliveries for our local food cupboard to people within our community, I can pray for these people and think of them as being part of my oikos. When I stand in line to check out my groceries at Wegmans, I can be a witness to those around me and consider them part of my oikos. When I read about a difficult situation of a Facebook friend, I can send them a note of encouragement and remember they are a part of my oikos. This brings to my mind an Old Testament scripture. Ezekiel 22:28-30 says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says’—when the Lord has not spoken. The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice. ‘I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.’” Through these verses I gain an understanding of the far reaching effect I can have when I pray for our nation that is within my oikos or my area of influence. As my perception of the size of my oikos expands, so does my responsibility for my oikos increase. Intercessory prayer creates a huge oikos for me!
Oikos includes all previous definitions.
The definitions for the Greek word oikos include my house or the building in which I live along with my household comprised of family members. Also my oikos enlarges to include anyone in my area of influence. WOW! Now I consider the Bible story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, found in Matthew 19:1-9. This account includes the three definitions for oikos. Since Zacchaeus was very short in stature, he climbed a tree in order to see Jesus when he was passing through Jericho. Jesus saw him and said (v.5), “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus was in the oikos (surrounding area of influence) of Jesus and then both men went to the oikos (material building) of Zacchaeus. Jesus helped the tax collector to see his sinful nature. Zacchaeus not only repented of his sins but also wanted to correct his mistakes of fraudulent tax collection. He told Jesus (v.8), “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Zaccaheus was reaching out to his oikos (surrounding area of influence). Jesus then responded by saying to him (v.9), “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”Jesus proclaimed the availability of salvation not only for Zaccaheus as an individual but also for his oikos (family or lineage). When Jesus approached Zaccaheus in a tree, the encounter created quite a family tree both physically and spiritually!
Since writing this blog, I have become more aware of the word “oikos.” While in the dairy department of the grocery store the other day, I noticed Dannon had Oikos Greek yogurt for sale. Although this was not a use of the word from a spiritual aspect, I did find it interesting! Maybe all of these definitions will give me something to chew on for a while. My Reader, can you digest the importance of your oikos while gaining an understanding of this Greek word?