Examining Matthew 24, Part 12: The Faithful and Discreet Slave

by | May 15, 2020 | 1919, Examining Matthew 24 Series, Faithful Slave, Videos | 9 comments

Hello, Meleti Vivlon here. This is the 12th video in our series on Matthew 24. Jesus has just finished telling his disciples that his return will be unexpected and that they must remain alert and stay awake. Then he gives the following parable:

“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so! Truly I say to you, he will appoint him over all his belongings.”

“But if ever that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and he starts to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and he will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his place with the hypocrites. There is where his weeping and the gnashing of his teeth will be. (Mt 24:45-51 New World Translation)

The organization likes to focus just on the first three verses, 45-47, but what are the key elements of this parable?

  • A master appoints a slave to feed his domestics, fellow slaves, while he is away.
  • When he returns, the Master determines if the slave has been good or bad;
  • If faithful and wise, the slave is rewarded;
  • If evil and abusive, he is punished.

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not treat these words as a parable but rather a prophecy with a very specific fulfillment. I’m not kidding when I say specific. They can tell you the very year in which this prophecy was fulfilled. They can give you the names of the men making up the faithful and discreet slave. You can’t get much more specific than that. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, in 1919, J.F. Rutherford and key personnel at headquarters in Brooklyn, New York were appointed by Jesus Christ to be his faithful and discreet slave. Today, the eight men of the current Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise that collective slave. You can’t have a prophetic fulfillment more literal than that.  However, the parable doesn’t stop there. It also speaks of an evil slave. So if it is a prophecy, it is all one prophecy. They don’t get to pick and choose which parts they want to be prophetic and which are just a parable. Yet, that is exactly what they do. They treat the second half of the so called prophecy as a metaphor, a symbolic warning. How convenient — since it speaks of an evil slave that will be punished by Christ with the greatest severity.

“Jesus did not say that he would appoint an evil slave. His words here are actually a warning directed to the faithful and discreet slave.” (w13 7/15 p. 24 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”)

Yes, how very convenient.  The fact is, Jesus didn’t appoint a faithful slave. He just appointed a slave; one he hoped would prove to be both faithful and wise. However, that determination would have to wait until his return.

Does this claim that the faithful slave was appointed in 1919 now seen dimwitted to you? Does it seem like no one at headquarters sat down for a moment and thought things through? Maybe you haven’t given it much thought.  If so, you likely would have missed the gaping hole in this interpretation.  Gaping hole?  What I talking about?

Well, according to the parable, when is the slave appointed? Isn’t it evident that he is appointed by the master before the master’s departs?  The reason the master appoints the slave is to care for his domestics—his fellow slaves—in the master’s absence. Now when is the slave declared faithful and discreet, and when is the abusive slave declared evil?  This happens only when the master returns and sees what each has been doing. And when exactly does the master return?  According to Matthew 24:50, his return will be on a day and hour that is unknown and not expected.  Remember what Jesus said regarding his presence just six verses earlier:

“On this account, you too prove yourselves ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour that you do not think to be it.” (Matthew 24:44)

There can be no doubt that in this parable, the master is Jesus Christ.  He departed in 33 C.E. to secure kingly power and will return at his future presence as a conquering King.

Now do you see the enormous flaw in the Governing Body’s logic?  They claim Christ’s presence began in 1914, then after five years, in 1919, while he is still present, he appoints his faithful and discreet slave.  They’ve got it backwards.  The Bible says the master appoints the slave when he leaves, not when he returns.  But the Governing Body say they were appointed five years after Jesus got back and his presence began.  It’s like they haven’t even read the account. 

There are other flaws in this presumptuous self-serving self-appointment but they are incidental to this gaping chasm in JW theology.

The sad thing is that even when you point this out to the many Witnesses who remain loyal to JW.org, they refuse to see it.  They don’t seem to care that this is an unreasonable and very transparent attempt to try to control their lives and their resources. Perhaps, like me, you despair at times at how easily people buy into crazy ideas.  This makes me think of the apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthians:

“Since you are so “reasonable,” you gladly put up with the unreasonable ones. In fact, you put up with whoever enslaves you, whoever devours your possessions, whoever grabs what you have, whoever exalts himself over you, and whoever strikes you in the face.” (2 Corinthians 11:19, 20)

Of course, to make this silliness work, the Governing Body, in the person of its chief theologian, David Splane, has had to reject the idea that there was any slave appointed to feed the flock prior to 1919.  In a nine-minute video on JW.org, Splane—without using a single Scripture—attempts to explain how our loving King, Jesus, would leave his disciples without any food, with no one to feed them during his absence over the past 1900 years.  Seriously, how can a Christian teacher try to overturn a Bible doctrine without even using the Bible? (Click here to see the Splane video)

Well, the time for such God-dishonoring stupidity is past.  Let us take an exegetical look at the parable to see if we can determine what it means.

The two chief protagonists in the parable are the master, Jesus, and a slave.  The only ones the Bible refers to as slaves of the Lord are his disciples. However, are we speaking about a single disciple, or small group of disciples as a Governing Body contends, or all the disciples? To answer that, let us look at the immediate context.

One clue is the reward received by the slave who is found to be faithful and wise.  “Truly I say to you, he will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:47)

This speaks of the promise held out to the children of God to become kings and priests to rule with Christ.  (Revelation 5:10)

“Hence let no one be boasting in men; for all things belong to YOU, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things now here or things to come, all things belong to YOU; in turn YOU belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

This reward, this appointment over all of Christ’s belongings obviously includes women. 

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29 BSB)

All the children of God, both male and female, who attain to the prize are appointed as Kings and Priests.  Evidently that is what the parable refers to when it says they are appointed over all the master’s belongings.

When Jehovah’s Witnesses treat this as a prophecy whose fulfillment starts in 1919, they introduce yet another break in logic.  Since the 12 apostles weren’t around in 1919, they cannot be appointed over all of Christ’s belongings, since they are not part of the slave.  Yet, men of the calibre of David Splane, Stephen Lett and Anthony Morris do get that appointment.  Does that make any kind of sense to you?

That would seem to be more than enough to convince us that the slave refers to more than one person or a committee of men.  Yet, there is still more.

In the next parable, Jesus speaks of the arrival of a bridegroom. As with the faithful and discreet slave parable, we have the chief protagonist being absent but returning at an unexpected time. So, this is yet another parable about the presence of Christ. Five of the virgins were wise and five of the virgins were foolish.  When you read this parable from Matthew 25:1 to 12, do you think he’s talking about a small class of people who are wise and another small group who are foolish, or do you see this as a moral lesson that applies to all Christians? The latter is the obvious conclusion, is it not? That becomes all the more obvious when he concludes the parable by reiterating his warning about being alert: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)

This allows him to segue right into his next parable which begins, “For it is just like a man about to travel abroad who summoned his slaves and entrusted his belongings to them.”  For the third time we have a scenario where the master is absent but will return. For a second time, slaves are mentioned. Three slaves to be precise, each given a different amount of money to work with and make grow. As with the ten virgins, do you think that these three slaves represent three individuals or even three different small groups of individuals? Or do you see them as representing all Christians each given a different set of gifts from our Lord based on each one’s individual abilities? 

Actually, there is a close parallel between working with the gifts or talents that Christ has invested in each one of us and feeding the domestics.  Peter tells us: “To the extent that each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness that is expressed in various ways.” (1 Peter 4:10 NWT)

Given that we would obviously draw such a conclusion about these last two parables, why would we not think the same of the first one—that the slave in question is representative of all Christians?

Oh, but there’s even more.

What you may not have noticed is that the organization doesn’t like to use Luke’s parallel account of the faithful and discreet slave when trying to convince everyone that the Governing Body has a special appointment from Jesus. Perhaps this is because Luke’s account doesn’t speak of two slaves but four. If you do a search in the Watchtower library to find out who the other two slaves represent, you will find a deafening silence on the subject. Let’s have a look at Luke’s account.  You will notice that the order Luke presents is different from that of Matthew but the lessons are the same; and by reading the full context we have a better idea of exactly how to apply the parable.

“Be dressed and ready and have your lamps burning, and you should be like men waiting for their master to return from the marriage, so when he comes and knocks, they may at once open to him.”  (Luke 12:35, 36)

This is the conclusion drawn from the parable of the ten virgins.

“Happy are those slaves whom the master on coming finds watching! Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he comes in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them ready, happy are they!” (Luke 12:37, 38)

Again, we see the constant repetition, the necessary harping on the theme of being awake and prepared.  Also, the slaves mentioned here are not some tiny subgrouping of Christians, but this applies to all of us. 

“But know this, if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely, the Son of man is coming.” (Luke 12:39, 40)

And again, the emphasis on the unexpected nature of his return.

With all this having been said, Peter asks: “Lord, are you telling this illustration just to us or also to everyone?” (Luke 12:41)

In reply, Jesus 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? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, he will appoint him over all his belongings. But if ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting him and at 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. Then that slave who understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he asked will be beaten with many strokes. But the one who did not understand and yet 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 who was put in charge of much will have more than usual demanded of him.” (Luke 12:42-48)

Four slaves are mentioned by Luke, but the determination of the type of slave each one becomes is not known at the time of their appointment, but at the time of the Lord’s return. At his return, he will find:

  • A slave he judges to be faithful and wise;
  • A slave he will cast out as evil and faithless;
  • A slave he will keep, but punish severely for willful disobedience;
  • A slave he will keep, but punish mildly for disobedience due to ignorance.

Notice that he only speaks of appointing a single slave, and when he comes back, he only speaks about a single slave for each of the four types.  Obviously one single slave cannot morph into four, but a single slave can represent all of his disciples, just as the ten virgins and the three slaves that get the talents represent all of his disciples. 

At this point, you may be wondering how it is possible for all of us to be in a position to feed the Lord’s domestics. You can see how all of us need to be prepared for his return, so the parable of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, can be made to fit with our lives as Christians as we prepare for his return. Likewise, you can see how we all get different gifts from the Lord.  Ephesians 4:8 says that when the Lord left us, he gave us gifts. 

“When He ascended on high, He led captives away, and gave gifts to men.” (BSB)

Incidentally, The New World translation mistranslates this as “gifts in men”, but every single translation in the parallel feature of biblehub.com renders it as “gifts to men” or “to people”.   The gifts Christ gives are not congregation elders as the organization would have us believe, but gifts in each of us that we can use to his glory. This fits with the context of Ephesians which three verses later says:

“And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.” (Ephesians 4:11-15)

Some of us can work as missionaries or apostles, those sent forth. Others, can evangelize; while still others are good at shepherding or teaching. These various gifts given to the disciples are from the Lord and are used to build up the entire body of Christ.

How do you build up the body of an infant into a full-grown adult? You feed the child. All of us feed each other in various ways, and therefore all of us contribute to the growth of each other.

You might look at me as one who feeds others, but often it is I who am fed; and not just with knowledge. There are times when the best of us is depressed, and needs to be fed emotionally, or physically weak and needs to be sustained, or spiritually exhausted and needs to be reenergized. No one does all the feeding.  All feed and all are fed.

In trying to support their zany idea that the Governing Body alone is the faithful and discreet slave, charged with feeding everyone else, they used the account at Matthew 14 where Jesus feeds the multitude with two fishes and five loaves of bread. The phrase used as the title of the article was “Feeding Many Through the Hands of a Few”.   The theme text was:

“And he instructed the crowds to recline on the grass. Then he took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said a blessing, and after breaking the loaves, he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds…” (Matthew 14:19)

Now we know that Jesus’ disciples included women, women who ministered to (or fed) our Lord from their belongings.

“Shortly afterwards he went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and certain women that had been cured of wicked spirits and sicknesses, Mary the so-called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had come out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s man in charge, and Susanna and many other women, who were ministering to them from their belongings.” (Luke 8:1-3)

I’m quite sure the Governing Body doesn’t want us to consider the likelihood that some of the “few feeding the many” were women.  That hardly supports their use of this account to justify their self-assumed role as feeders of the flock.

In any case, their illustration does serve to understand how the faithful and discreet slave operates.  Just not as they intended. Consider that according to some estimates, there could have been 20,000 people in attendance. Are we to assume that his disciples personally handed out food to 20,000 people?  Think of the logistics involved in feeding that many.  First, a multitude of that size would cover several acres of land.  That’s a lot of walking back and forth carrying heavy basket loads of food.  We’re talking tonnage here. 

Are we to assume a small number of disciples carried all that food over all that distance and handed it out to each individual? Would it not make more sense for them to fill up a basket and walk it out to one group and leave the basket with someone in that group who would arrange to distribute it further? In fact, there would be no way to feed that many people in a relatively short space of time without delegating the work load and sharing it among many.

This is in fact a very good illustration of how the faithful and discreet slave works.  Jesus supplies the food. We do not. We carry it, and distribute it.  All of us, distribute it according to what we have received.  This brings to mind the parable of the talents which, you’ll recall, was delivered in the same context as the parable of the faithful slave.  Some of us have five talents, some two, some only one, but what Jesus wants is for us to work with what we have. Then we will render an account to him. 

This nonsense about there being no appointment of the faithful slave before 1919 is galling.  That they would expect Christians to swallow such tripe is frankly insulting.

Remember, in the parable, the master appoints the slave just before he leaves.  If we turn to John 21 we find that the disciples had been fishing, and had caught nothing all night.  At daybreak, the resurrected Jesus appears on the shore and they don’t realize it is he. He tells them to cast their net to the right side of the boat and when they do, it is filled with so many fish that they cannot haul it in.

Peter realizes it is the Lord and plunges into the sea to swim to shore.  Now recall that all the disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and so all must be feeling enormous shame and guilt, but none more than Peter who actually denied the Lord three times.  Jesus has to restore their spirit, and through Peter, he will restore all of them. If Peter, the worst offender, is forgiven, then all of them are forgiven.

We are about to see the appointment of the faithful slave.  John tells us:

“When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus told them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many, the net was not torn. “Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said to them. None of the disciples dared to ask Him, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish.” (John 21:9-13 BSB)

A very familiar scenario, is it not?  Jesus fed the crowd with fish and bread. Now he is doing the same for his disciples. The fish they caught were due to the Lord’s intervention.  The Lord provided the food.

Jesus has also recreated elements from the night Peter denied him. At one point, he was sitting around a fire as he is now when he denied the Lord.  Peter denied him three times. Our Lord is going to give him the opportunity to walk back each denial. 

He asks him three times if he loves him and three times Peter affirms his love. But at each answer Jesus adds the commands like, “Feed my lambs”, “Shepherd my sheep”, “Feed my sheep”.

In the Lord’s absence, Peter is to show his love by feeding the sheep, the domestics.  But not just Peter, but all the apostles. 

Speaking about the early days of the Christian congregation, we read:

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42 NLT)

Speaking metaphorically, during his 3 ½ year ministry, Jesus had given his disciples fish and bread. He had fed them well. Now it was their turn to feed others. 

But the feeding didn’t stop with the apostles.  Stephen was murdered by angry Jewish opposers.

According to Acts 8:2, 4: “On that day great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria….However, those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.”

So now those who had been fed were feeding others.  Soon, the people of the nations, the gentiles, were also spreading the good news and feeding the sheep of the Lord.Something happened this morning just as I was about to shoot this video, that effectively demonstrates how the slave operates today. I got an email from a viewer which said this:

Hello dear brethren,

I just wanted to share something with you that the Lord showed me a couple of days ago that I think is extremely important.

It is an irrefutable proof that shows that ALL Christians are to partake of the Lord’s Evening Meal – and the proof is astoundingly simple:

Jesus commanded the very same 11 disciples who were with him on the night of the Evening Meal:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching THEM to OBSERVE all the things I have commanded YOU.”

The Greek word translated “to observe” is the same word used in John 14:15 where Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will OBSERVE my commandments.”

Thus, Jesus was saying to those 11: “teach ALL of my disciples to obey exactly what I commanded YOU to obey”.

What did Jesus command His disciples at the Lord’s Evening Meal?

“Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:24)

Therefore ALL of Jesus’ disciples are required to partake of the emblems of the Lord’s Evening Meal in obedience to a direct command of Christ Himself.

I thought I’d share it as it’s probably the most simple & powerful argument I know of – and one that all JWs will understand.

Warmest regards to you all…

I had never considered this particular line of reasoning before. I have been fed and there you have it.  

Making this parable into a prophecy and getting the flock of Jehovah Witnesses to buy into the deception has allowed the Governing Body to create a hierarchy of subservience.  They say they serve Jehovah, and they get the flock to serve them in God’s name.  But the fact is, if you obey men, you don’t serve God. You serve men.

This frees the flock from any obligation to Jesus, because they think they are not the ones judged when he returns, since they are not appointed as his faithful slaves.  They are just observers.  How dangerous this is for them.  They think they are safe from judgment in this instance, but that is not the case as Luke’s account points out.

Remember in Luke’s account there are two additional slaves. One who disobeyed the master’s will unwittingly.  How many Witnesses are unwittingly disobeying Jesus as they comply with instructions from the Governing Body, thinking they are not part of the faithful slave? 

Remember, this is a parable.  A parable is used to instruct us about a moral issue that has real world ramifications.  The master has appointed all of us who have been baptized in his name to feed his sheep, our fellow slaves.  The parable teaches us that there are four potential outcomes.  And please understand that while I focus on Jehovah’s Witnesses because of my personal experience, these outcomes are not limited to members of that relatively small religious group.  Are you a Baptist, a Catholic, a Presbyterian, or a member any of the thousands of denominations in Christendom?  What I’m about to say applies equally to you as well.  There are only four outcomes for us.  If you serve the congregation in an oversight capacity, you are especially vulnerable to the temptation that befalls the evil slave to take advantage of your fellows and become abusive and exploitive.  If so, Jesus “will punish you with the greatest severity” and throw you out among those without faith.

Are you serving men in your church or congregation or Kingdom hall and ignoring the commands of God in the Bible, perhaps unwittingly?  I’ve had Witnesses answer the challenge, “Whom would you obey: The Governing Body or Jesus Christ?” with a solid affirmation of support for the Governing Body.  These are knowingly disobeying the Lord.  Many strokes await such brazen disobedience.  But then we have what is arguably the majority, content to wallow in false comfort, thinking that by obeying their priest, bishop, minister, or congregation elder, they are pleasing God.  They disobey unwittingly. They are beaten with a few strokes.

Do any of us want to suffer one of those three outcomes?  Would we not all prefer to find favor in the eyes of the Lord and to be appointed over all his belongings?

So, what can we take from the parable of the faithful and discreet slave, the parable of the 10 virgins, and the parable of the talents? In each case, the slaves of the Lord—you and I—are left with a particular job to do.  In each case, when the master returns there is a reward for doing the job and a punishment for failing to do it. 

And that’s all we really need to know about these parables.  Do your job because the master is coming when you least expect it, and he will hold an accounting with each of us.

What about the fourth parable, the one about the sheep and the goats? Again, the organization treats that one as a prophecy. Their interpretation is intended to solidify their power over the flock. But what does it really refer to? Well, we’ll leave that for the final video of this series.

I’m Meleti Vivlon. I’d like to thank you very much for viewing. Please subscribe if you’d like to receive notifications of future videos. I’ll leave information in the description of this video for the transcript as well as a link to all the other videos.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.

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