Questions From Readers
What did Jesus mean when he said that his faithful slave would be “discreet”?
Jesus raised the question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45) The “slave” providing spiritual “food” is the congregation of spirit-anointed Christians. Why did Jesus call them discreet?a
We can best understand from Jesus’ own teaching what he might have meant by the word “discreet.” For example, when he spoke of “the faithful and discreet slave,” Jesus gave the parable of the ten virgins who were watching for the arrival of the bridegroom. The virgins remind us of anointed Christians before 1914 who were eagerly waiting for the arrival of the great Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Of the ten virgins, five did not have enough oil when the bridegroom arrived, and they missed out on the marriage feast. The other five proved to be discreet. They had provisioned themselves with enough oil so that they could continue to shed light when the bridegroom arrived and they were allowed into the feast.—Matthew 25:10-12.
When Jesus came into his Kingdom authority in 1914, many among the anointed Christians were expecting to join him immediately in heaven. However, there was more work for them to do on earth, and some were not prepared for that. Like the indiscreet virgins, they had not strengthened themselves spiritually in advance, so they were unprepared to continue as light bearers. Most, though, had acted discreetly—with wisdom and foresight—and were spiritually fortified. When they learned that more work lay ahead, they joyfully set about accomplishing it. Hence, they proved to be “the faithful and discreet slave.”
Consider also Jesus’ use of the word “discreet” at Matthew 7:24. Jesus said: “Everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass.” The discreet man builds solidly, in view of the possibility of a storm. In contrast, the foolish man builds on sand and loses his house. Thus, a discreet follower of Jesus is one who foresees the bad consequences of following human wisdom. His discernment and good judgment lead him to base his faith, actions, and teachings firmly on what Jesus taught. “The faithful and discreet slave” acts similarly.
Notice, too, the use of the word rendered “discreet” in many versions of the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Pharaoh appointed Joseph over Egypt’s food supply. This was part of Jehovah’s arrangement to provide food for his people. Why was Joseph chosen? Pharaoh said to him: “There is no one as discreet and wise as you are.” (Genesis 41:33-39; 45:5) Similarly, the Bible says that Abigail was “good in discretion.” She provided food for Jehovah’s anointed one, David, and for his men. (1 Samuel 25:3, 11, 18) Joseph and Abigail could be called discreet because they discerned God’s will and acted with foresight and good judgment.
Hence, when Jesus described the faithful slave as discreet, he indicated that those represented by that slave would display discernment, foresight, and good judgment because they base their faith, actions, and teachings on God’s Word of truth.
a “Discreet” translates the Greek word phroʹni·mos. The work Word Studies in the New Testament, by M. R. Vincent, comments that this word most frequently refers to practical wisdom and prudence.