“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” (Mt. 24:45-47)
In a previous post, several of the forum members provided valuable insights on this subject. Before moving on to other subjects, it would seem beneficial to summarize the key elements of this discussion.
Let’s start by rereading the fullest account of the parable as provided by Luke. We’ve included some of the context as well, as an additional aid to understanding.
The Parable with Context
(Luke 12:32-48) “Have no fear, little flock, because YOUR Father has approved of giving YOU the kingdom. 33 Sell the things belonging to YOU and give gifts of mercy. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, a never-failing treasure in the heavens, where a thief does not get near nor moth consumes. 34 For where YOUR treasure is, there YOUR hearts will be also.
35 “Let YOUR loins be girded and YOUR lamps be burning, 36 and YOU yourselves be like men waiting for their master when he returns from the marriage, so that at his arriving and knocking they may at once open to him. 37 Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to YOU, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. 38 And if he arrives in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them thus, happy are they! 39 But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have kept watching and not have let his house be broken into. 40 YOU also, keep ready, because at an hour that YOU do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”
41 Then Peter said: “Lord, are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?” 42 And the Lord said: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? 43 Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so! 44 I tell YOU truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings. 45 But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting [him] and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones. 47 Then that slave that understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do in line with his will will be beaten with many strokes. 48 But the one that did not understand and so did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few. Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him.
Dealing with Our Official Interpretation
You will notice that Jesus is encouraging his listeners to stay the course. He alludes to the possibility that his arrival may appear to be delayed. (“if he arrives in the second watch, even if in the third…”) Yet, they will be happy if he finds them doing his will upon his arrival. Then he emphasizes that the arrival of the Son of man will be like that of a thief.
In response to this, Peter asks to whom Jesus is referring; to them or to all? Notice that Jesus doesn’t answer the question. Instead he gives them another parable, but one that is linked to the first.
Officially, we claim that Jesus arrived in 1918. If you care to research this in the Watchtower Library, you will see that we offer no solid Scriptural support for this date. It is based entirely on speculation. That isn’t to say it is wrong. However, to prove it, we must look elsewhere for proof. In the context of the parable, the arrival of the Son of man is unknown to his listeners and more than that, it will be at an hour they “do not think likely”. We predicted the arrival of Christ in 1914 over 40 years before the event. We definitely thought that 1914 was likely. Therefore, for Jesus’ words to be true, we must conclude that he is speaking of another arrival. The only candidate left is his arrival at or just before Armageddon. That single fact should be enough for us to discard our current understanding as false.
Since we conclude that the slave is a class of individuals, and this class was judged in 1918 by Jesus and thereafter accorded oversight over all his belongings, we have to ask ourselves what became of the other three classes. What evidence is there that the Evil Slave class has been punished and as the parallel account in Matthew points out, has been weeping and gnashing its teeth for the past century? Additionally, what is the identity of the slave class that gets many strokes and the other slave class that gets few strokes? How were these two classes punished by Jesus with strokes? Since this is history and almost one hundred years in our past, it should be clear by now who these three additional classes of slave are and how they were dealt with by Jesus. How could the answers to those questions not be plainly evident for all Christians to see?
An Alternative Understanding
The simple truth is that we cannot know with any certainty who the faithful steward or the other three slave types are. The Bible clearly indicates that they will only be identified as a result of the arrival of and subsequent judgment by their Master. We can look around now to see who is feeding us and draw some conclusions, but there are so many possibilities? Is it the Governing Body? But that would mean that they alone are going to be appointed over all the Master’s belongings? Is it the remnant of anointed on earth? We cannot discount that, but we have to answer the question of how they feed us, since they have no input into the articles that are published, nor the makeup of the Governing Body, nor the direction the organization takes.
Perhaps the slaves come from all of us as individuals, as is the case with other parables of Christ that use slaves as illustrative components. It is true that the spiritual food we consume is composed, edited, printed and distributed almost exclusively by those who claim to be of the other sheep class which we believe is comprised of those with an earthly hope. The feeding program starts at the top with the Governing Body and extends right down to the individual publisher. Our sisters are a mighty army spreading the good news. They contribute to the distribution of spiritual food.
Are we suggesting that all Christians are being referred to by the parable; that as individuals we will all be judged by Christ upon his arrival and placed into one of these four categories of slave? It is only a possibility, but what we are saying is that we cannot know the fulfillment of this prophetic parable until the evidence is before us at the time of the Master’s arrival.
Food for Thought
Who is bearing witness to us about the identity of the faithful slave? Is it not the very ones claiming to be that slave? Who bears witness that this slave has had authority over all Jesus’ belongings since 1918? Again, it is the self-same slave. So we know who the slave is because the slave tells us so.
Here is what Jesus had to say about this type of reasoning.
“If I alone bear witness about myself, my witness is not true. (John 5:31)
The slave cannot bear witness about itself. Witness or evidence must come from elsewhere. If that applied to the Son of God on earth, how much more so must it apply to men?
It is Jesus who, upon his arrival, will bear witness as to who each of these four slaves is. The result of his judgment will be evident to all observers.
Therefore, let us not trouble ourselves about the interpretation of this parable. Let us just patiently await the arrival of our Lord and in the meantime take to heart his words of warning from Luke 12:32-48 and Matthew 24:36-51 and be doing our utmost to promote the interests of the Kingdom and minister to the needs of our brothers and sisters until that day Jesus comes in Kingdom glory.
[…] That, we say, happened in 1919. The fall of Babylon the Great then requires the status of the faithful steward to be changed, so we conclude that he was appointed over all his master’s belongings, also in […]
A couple of observations: First, on John 5:31, it should be noted that Jesus’ argument was that they didn’t have to take his word for it, nor that of John the baptizer for that matter, since they could see his works. Verse 36 says: “But I have the witness greater than that of John, for the very works that my Father assigned me to accomplish, the works themselves that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father dispatched me.” So I think the “works” of the organization – as headed by the GB – could be used fairly… Read more »
Thanks for these insights, Junachin. I quite agree with you that the works of the faithful slave bear witness to its identity. My point with using John 5:31 is that we cannot accept the current teaching on its own merit, because those telling us who the slave is also claim to be the slave. Therefore, as you rightly point out, more is needed; an outside witness. In keeping with the context of Jesus’ words, works that identify the slave would provide that witness. Since both Matthew and Luke indicate that those works would consist of feeding the domestics, we need… Read more »