When answering the apostles’ question concerning his future presence and the conclusion of the existing system of things, Jesus Christ included a parable, or illustration, dealing with a “faithful and discreet slave.” The faithful slave’s master appointed him over his domestics, or household servants, to provide them their food. If approved at his master’s coming (evidently from some trip), the slave would be rewarded by being placed over all the master’s belongings.—Mt 24:3, 45-51.
In the parallel illustration at Luke 12:42-48, the slave is called a steward, that is, a house manager or administrator, one placed over servants, though he is himself a servant. Such a position was often filled in ancient times by a faithful slave. (Compare Ge 24:2; also the case of Joseph at Ge 39:1-6.) In Jesus’ illustration the steward is first assigned only to the supervision and timely dispensation of the food supplies to the master’s body of attendants, or servants, and later, because of his faithful and discreet handling of this ministry, his assignment is widened out to embrace supervision of all the master’s holdings. Regarding the identification of the “master” (Gr., kyʹri·os, also rendered “lord”), Jesus had already shown that he himself occupied such a position toward his disciples, and they addressed him as such on occasion. (Mt 10:24, 25; 18:21; 24:42; Joh 13:6, 13) The question remains concerning the application of the figure of the faithful and discreet slave, or steward, and what his dispensing food to the domestics represents.
“Slave” is in the singular. This, however, does not require that the “slave” prefigure only one particular person who would be so privileged. The Scriptures contain examples of the use of a singular noun to refer to a collective group, such as when Jehovah addressed the collective group of the Israelite nation and told them: “You are my witnesses [plural], . . . even my servant [singular] whom I have chosen.” (Isa 43:10) The “antichrist” is shown to be a collective group made up of individual antichrists. (1Jo 2:18; 2Jo 7) Similarly, the “slave” is composite. It was to be appointed in the time of the end as a channel to give out spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Mt 24:3, 45; Lu 12:42) In the first century, Jesus set a pattern for how spiritual food would be dispensed in the Christian congregation. Just as he had distributed literal food to the crowds through the hands of a few disciples, spiritual food was to be provided through the hands of a few. (Mt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lu 9:16) Jesus trained the apostles for the role they would have after Pentecost 33 C.E. as a channel in dispensing spiritual food. They were later joined by other elders to serve as a governing body in order to settle issues and to direct the preaching and teaching of the Kingdom good news. (Ac 2:42; 8:14; 15:1, 2, 6-29) After the death of the apostles, a great apostasy set in. But in the time of the end—in keeping with the pattern he set in the first century of feeding many through the hands of a few—Jesus selected a small group of spirit-anointed men to serve as “the faithful and discreet slave,” to prepare and dispense spiritual food during his presence.
The domestics are all those who belong to the Christian congregation, both the anointed and the “other sheep,” who are fed spiritual food. (Joh 10:16) This includes the individual members making up “the faithful and discreet slave,” since they too are recipients of the food dispensed. Those who make up the faithful slave will receive expanded responsibility if they are found faithful at the master’s promised coming. When they receive their heavenly reward and become corulers with Christ, he will appoint them over “all his belongings.” Along with the rest of the 144,000, they will share Christ’s vast heavenly authority.—Mt 24:46, 47; Lu 12:43, 44.