2 The timely spiritual food we receive is proof that Jesus, the Head of the congregation, is keeping his promise to feed us. Through whom is he doing so? When giving the sign of his presence, Jesus said that he would use “the faithful and discreet slave” to give “food at the proper time” to his domestics.* (Read Matthew 24:45-47.) That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3.
WHEN IS THE ILLUSTRATION FULFILLED?
4-6. Why may we conclude that Jesus’ illustration of the faithful slave began to be fulfilled only after 1914?
4 The context of the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave shows that it began to be fulfilled, not at Pentecost 33 C.E., but in this time of the end. Let us see how the Scriptures lead us to this conclusion.
5 The illustration of the faithful slave is part of Jesus’ prophecy about “the sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) The first portion of the prophecy, recorded at Matthew 24:4-22, has two fulfillments—first, in the years from 33 C.E. through 70 C.E., and second, in a more far-reaching way in our day. Does this mean that Jesus’ words about the faithful slave would also have two fulfillments? No.
6 Starting with the words recorded at Matthew 24:29, Jesus focused primarily on events that would happen in our day. (Read Matthew 24:30, 42, 44.) 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, in words meant for those living during the last days, he urged vigilance, saying: “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.”* In this context—when speaking about events that would take place in the last days—Jesus related the illustration of the faithful slave. Therefore, we may conclude that his words about that faithful slave began to be fulfilled only after the last days began in 1914. Such a conclusion makes sense. Why is that?
7. What vital question arose as the harvest season 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 hardly a reason to ask such a question. As we saw in the preceding article, the apostles could perform miracles and even transmit miraculous gifts as proof of divine backing. (Acts 5:12) So why would anyone need to ask who really was appointed by Christ to take the lead? In 1914, however, the situation was much different. The harvest season began in that year. The time had finally arrived to separate the weeds from the wheat. (Matt. 13:36-43) As the harvest season began, a vital question thus arose: With many imitation Christians claiming to be Jesus’ true followers, how could the wheat—anointed Christians—be identified? The illustration of the faithful slave provided an answer. Christ’s anointed followers would be the ones who were well-fed spiritually.
WHO IS THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE?
8. Why is it fitting that the faithful slave be made up of anointed Christians?
8 The faithful slave must be made up of anointed Christians on earth. Such ones are called “a royal priesthood” and have been commissioned to “ ‘declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) It is only fitting that members of that “royal priesthood” have a direct share in teaching fellow believers the truth.—Mal. 2:7; Rev. 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. The reality is that not all anointed ones have a role in dispensing spiritual food to fellow believers worldwide. Among the wheat are anointed brothers who may serve as ministerial servants or elders in their local congregation. They teach from house to house and in their congregation, and they loyally support the direction from headquarters. But they do not have a part in dispensing spiritual food to the worldwide brotherhood. Also among the anointed are humble sisters, who would never try to assume the role of teachers in the congregation.—1 Cor. 11:3; 14:34.
10. Who is the faithful and discreet slave?
10 Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, however, that the word “slave” in Jesus’ illustration is singular, indicating that this is a composite slave. The decisions of the Governing Body are thus made collectively.
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, and whom did he select?
11 It is noteworthy that in Jesus’ illustration, the faithful and discreet slave receives two distinct 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 Jesus’ presence in kingly power began in 1914.
12 When did Jesus appoint the faithful slave over his domestics? To answer that, we need to go back to 1914—the beginning of the harvest season. As we learned earlier, at that time many groups claimed to be Christian. From which group would Jesus select and appoint the faithful slave? That question was answered after he and his Father came and inspected the temple, or spiritual arrangement for worship, from 1914 to the early part of 1919.* (Mal. 3:1) They were pleased with a small band of loyal Bible Students who showed that their heart was with Jehovah and his Word. Of course, they needed some cleansing, but they humbly responded during a brief period of testing and refining. (Mal. 3:2-4) Those faithful Bible Students were true Christian wheat. In 1919, a time of spiritual revival, Jesus selected capable 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? Put simply, they are those who are fed. Early in the last days, the domestics were all anointed ones. Later, the domestics came to include the great crowd of other sheep. The other sheep now make up the vast majority of the “one flock” under Christ’s leadership. (John 10:16) Both groups benefit from the same timely spiritual food that is dispensed by the faithful slave. What about the Governing Body members who today make up the faithful and discreet slave? Those brothers also need to be fed spiritually. Hence, they humbly recognize that as individuals they are domestics just like all the rest of Jesus’ genuine followers.
14. (a) The faithful slave is charged with what responsibility, and what does this include? (b) What warning did Jesus give to the faithful and discreet slave? (See the box “If Ever That Evil Slave . . .”)
14 Jesus placed a weighty responsibility on the faithful and discreet slave. In Bible times, a trusted slave, or steward, was a house manager. (Luke 12:42) The faithful and discreet slave is thus charged with the responsibility to manage the household of faith. That responsibility includes overseeing material assets, the preaching activity, assembly and convention programs, and the production of Bible literature for use in the field ministry and in personal and congregation study. The domestics depend on all the spiritual provisions dispensed by the composite slave.