“Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics?”—MATTHEW 24:45.
1, 2. Whom is Jesus using to feed us today? Why must we know who this slave is?
“BROTHERS, I cannot begin to count the times you have put into my hands articles that contained just what I needed when I needed it most.” That is what one sister wrote in a letter to thank the brothers who work at our world headquarters. Have you ever felt this way? Many of us have. Should that surprise us? Not really.
2 The fact that we receive spiritual food just when we need it proves that Jesus, the Head of the congregation, is keeping his promise to feed us. Whom is Jesus using to feed us? When Jesus told his disciples what the sign of his presence would be, he said that he would use “the faithful and discreet slave” to give “food at the proper time” to his “domestics.”a (See endnote.) (Read Matthew 24:45-47.) In this time of the end, Jesus is feeding his true followers through that faithful slave. It is extremely important that we know who the faithful slave is. Our friendship with God depends on receiving spiritual food through this faithful slave.—Matthew 4:4; John 17:3.
3. What have our publications said about the illustration of the faithful slave?
3 What does Jesus’ illustration about the faithful slave mean? In the past, our publications have said the following: At Pentecost of the year 33, Jesus appointed the faithful slave to care for his domestics. Since then, the slave is all anointed Christians as a group who live on earth at any one time. The domestics are these anointed ones as individuals. In 1919, Jesus appointed the faithful slave “over all his belongings,” everything on earth that is used to support the Kingdom preaching work. But after carefully studying this subject, praying about it, and meditating on it, we realized that our understanding of Jesus’ words about the faithful and discreet slave needs to be changed. (Proverbs 4:18) Let us discuss the illustration and how it affects us, whether we have the hope of living in heaven or on earth.
WHEN IS THE ILLUSTRATION FULFILLED?
4-6. Why is it clear that Jesus’ illustration of the faithful slave began to be fulfilled only after 1914?
4 Other verses in Matthew chapter 24 show that the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave began to be fulfilled, not at Pentecost of the year 33, but in this time of the end. Let us see how the Scriptures help us to understand this.
5 The illustration of the faithful slave is part of Jesus’ prophecy about the sign of his presence and of the last days. (Matthew 24:3) The first part of the prophecy, recorded at Matthew 24:4-22, has two fulfillments. The first fulfillment was in the years from 33 through 70. The second and larger fulfillment is in our time. Does this mean that Jesus’ words about the faithful slave would also have two fulfillments? No.
6 Starting with the words at Matthew 24:29, Jesus spoke mainly about things that would happen in our time. (Read Matthew 24:30, 42, 44.) While speaking about what will happen during the great tribulation, he said that people “will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then, speaking to those living during the last days, he said: “You do not know on what day your Lord is coming” and, “At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”b (See endnote.) Right after Jesus spoke about what would happen in the last days, he gave the illustration of the faithful slave. So it is clear that Jesus’ words about that faithful slave began to be fulfilled only after the last days began in 1914. This understanding makes sense. Why is that?
7. What became an important question when the time of the harvest began, and why?
7 Think, for a moment, about the question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” In the first century, there was no reason to ask this question. As we saw in the previous article, the apostles could perform miracles and even pass on gifts of the spirit to others. This proved that the apostles were the ones whom God was using. (Acts 5:12) So no one needed to ask who really was appointed by Christ to take the lead. But in 1914, the situation was very different. The time of the harvest began in that year. The time had finally come to separate the weeds from the wheat. (Matthew 13:36-43) When the time of the harvest began, there were many false Christians who claimed to be Jesus’ true followers. So the important question was this: How could the wheat, or anointed Christians, be recognized? The illustration of the faithful slave gave the answer. Christ’s anointed followers would be the ones getting the spiritual food they needed.
WHO IS THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE?
8. Why does it make sense that the faithful slave be made up of anointed Christians?
8 The faithful slave must be made up of anointed Christians on earth. They are called “a royal priesthood” and have been appointed to preach to others about the wonderful things God has done. (1 Peter 2:9) It makes sense that members of that “royal priesthood” would be the ones teaching the truth to their brothers.—Malachi 2:7; Revelation 12:17.
9. Do all anointed Christians make up the faithful slave? Explain.
9 Do all anointed ones on earth make up the faithful slave? No. Not all anointed ones give out spiritual food to their brothers around the world. It is true that some of the anointed are ministerial servants or elders in the congregation. They teach from house to house and in their congregation, and they loyally support the direction from headquarters. But they do not actually give out spiritual food to their brothers around the world. There are also humble sisters among the anointed, who would never try to become teachers in the congregation.—1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34.
10. Who is the faithful and discreet slave?
10 Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? That slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who directly prepare and give out spiritual food during Christ’s presence. This is similar to how Jesus fed many through the hands of a few in the first century. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served at headquarters. In recent years, that slave has been the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, though, that in his illustration, Jesus said that there would be one “slave.” So the members of the Governing Body make their decisions as a group.
WHO ARE THE DOMESTICS?
11, 12. (a) What two appointments does the faithful and discreet slave receive? (b) When did Jesus appoint the faithful slave over his domestics? Whom did he choose?
11 Note that in Jesus’ illustration, the faithful and discreet slave receives two different appointments. The first is over the domestics. The second is over all the master’s belongings. Since the illustration is fulfilled only in this time of the end, both appointments would have to come after 1914, when Jesus’ presence as King began.
12 When did Jesus appoint the faithful slave over his domestics? To answer that, let us talk more about what happened at the beginning of the time of the harvest in 1914. As we learned earlier, at that time many groups claimed to be Christian. From which group would Jesus choose and appoint the faithful slave? That question was answered after he and his Father came and inspected the temple from 1914 to the early part of 1919.c (See endnote.) (Malachi 3:1) They were pleased with a small group of loyal Bible Students who showed that they truly loved Jehovah and his Word. Of course, they needed some cleansing. But they humbly accepted correction during a period of testing and refining. (Malachi 3:2-4) Those faithful Bible Students were true Christians, the wheat in Jesus’ illustration. In 1919, Jesus selected qualified anointed brothers from among them to be the faithful and discreet slave and appointed them over his domestics.
13. Who are included in the domestics, and why?
13 Who, then, are the domestics? They are simply those who receive spiritual food. Early in the last days, the domestics were all anointed ones. Later, a great crowd of other sheep also became part of the domestics. Most of Christ’s “one flock” is now made up of the other sheep. (John 10:16) Both groups benefit from the same spiritual food that is given at the right time through the faithful slave. Are the members of the Governing Body who today make up the faithful and discreet slave also domestics? Those brothers also need to receive spiritual food. So they humbly recognize that as individuals they are domestics just like all other true Christians.
14. (a) What responsibility has the faithful slave been given? What does this responsibility include? (b) What warning did Jesus give to the faithful and discreet slave? (See the box “If Ever That Evil Slave . . .”)
14 Jesus gave the faithful and discreet slave an extremely important responsibility. In Bible times, a trusted slave, or steward, managed everything that belonged to his master. (Luke 12:42) In a similar way, the faithful and discreet slave has been given the responsibility to manage everything on earth that belongs to Christ. That responsibility includes caring for money, property, the preaching work, and assembly and convention programs. It also includes making Bible literature that we use in the field ministry, for personal study, and for congregation meetings. The domestics depend on all the spiritual food that is given out through the faithful slave.
WHEN IS THE SLAVE APPOINTED OVER ALL THE MASTER’S BELONGINGS?
15, 16. When does Jesus appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings?
15 When does Jesus make the second appointment, that is, the appointment “over all his belongings”? Jesus said: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving [literally, “having come,” footnote] finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:46, 47) Note that Jesus makes the second appointment after he arrives and finds that the slave has been “doing so,” that is, faithfully giving out spiritual food. So there would be a period of time between the two appointments. To understand how and when Jesus appoints the slave over all his belongings, we need to know two things: when he arrives and what his belongings include.
16 When does Jesus arrive? The answer is found in earlier verses of Matthew chapter 24. Remember that in these verses, Jesus’ “coming” refers to when he comes to judge and destroy the wicked at the end of this system of things.d (See endnote.) (Matthew 24:30, 42, 44) So Jesus’ “arriving,” or “coming,” in the illustration of the faithful slave happens during the great tribulation.
17. What do Jesus’ belongings include?
17 What do “all” of Jesus’ belongings include? Jesus’ belongings are not only on earth. His belongings include things in heaven. Jesus once said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23) His belongings now include the Messianic Kingdom. This Kingdom has belonged to him since 1914, and he will share it with his anointed followers.—Revelation 11:15.
18. Why will Jesus be happy to appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings?
18 So, what can we conclude? When Jesus comes to destroy the wicked during the great tribulation, he will find that the faithful slave has been loyally giving out spiritual food at the right time to the domestics. Jesus will then be happy to appoint that slave over all his belongings. Those who make up the faithful slave will get this appointment when they receive their reward in heaven and become rulers along with Christ.
19. Does the faithful slave receive a greater reward in heaven than the rest of the anointed? Explain.
19 Does the faithful slave receive a greater reward in heaven than the rest of the anointed? No. A reward can be promised to a small group at a certain time and then be shared by others later. For example, consider what Jesus said to his 11 faithful apostles the night before he died. (Read Luke 22:28-30.) Jesus promised that small group of men that they would receive a wonderful reward for their faithfulness. They would be kings with him in heaven. But years later, something he said showed that all of the 144,000 will be kings with him in heaven. (Revelation 1:1; 3:21) In a similar way, as Matthew 24:47 says, he promised that a small group of men, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave, will be appointed over all his belongings. Really, though, all of the 144,000 will share authority over Christ’s belongings.—Revelation 20:4, 6.
20. Why did Jesus appoint the faithful slave? What do we always want to do?
20 Just as Jesus fed many through the hands of a few in the first century, he is feeding many through the hands of the faithful and discreet slave today. Jesus appointed that faithful slave to make sure that his true followers, whether of the anointed or of the other sheep, would continue to receive spiritual food at the right time during the last days. So let us always show our gratitude by loyally supporting the anointed brothers who make up that faithful and discreet slave.—Hebrews 13:7, 17.
a Paragraph 2: At an earlier time, Jesus gave a similar illustration. He referred to the “slave” as a “steward” and to the “domestics” as “his body of attendants.”—Luke 12:42-44.
b Paragraph 6: Christ’s “coming” (Greek, erʹkho·mai) is different from his “presence” (pa·rou·siʹa). His invisible presence begins before his coming to judge and destroy the wicked.
c Paragraph 12: See the article “Look! I Am With You All the Days,” in this issue, pages 10-12, paragraphs 5-8.
d Paragraph 16: See the article “Tell Us, When Will These Things Be?” in this issue, pages 7-8, paragraphs 14-18.