[This article was contributed by Apollos]
Our published doctrines on the “faithful slave” repeatedly cite Matthew 24:45, and yet avoid the parallel account in Luke 12. As Meleti has previously highlighted in his article about the annual meeting, if we did use Luke’s account we would be required to explain who each of the other three slaves would be as classes in relation to the Governing Body.
I have since realized another reason why we avoid this parallel account. Luke brings a particular context to the occasion when Jesus provides the parable. It’s worth fully considering that context as it reveals that the current claims by the Governing Body are clearly at odds with Scripture.
In Luke 12:41 Peter asks “Lord, are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?” Jesus’ words about the faithful steward are by way of response to that question. Now to reach the same application as the Governing Body have made, we would have to interpret Jesus’ answer as “Neither Peter. The slave will not exist for another 1886 years.”
Is this a reasonable, or even possible, interpretation of how Jesus responds to Peter?
“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 at the proper time?”
There are three key points built into Jesus’ reply:
1) “Who really is …?” Jesus begins in the present tense. So Peter would have understood that his question was valid, in that he and/or others of that period would be included.
Importantly, if we back up a bit to v32-40 Jesus is talking directly to Peter and the others, and giving them instructions for what lies ahead. So when Peter asks his question the answer cannot be “No, I am not saying this illustration to you”. The answer must be either “I am saying this illustration just to you”, or “I am saying this illustration to more people than just you”. The parable that follows is surely a way of revealing the latter, but not to exclude the present group to whom he is speaking. The fact that Jesus says “who really IS …” would be further confirmation of this.
2) ” … whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants …”. So the appointment was indeed future. But as we have already seen, it must be an appointment that was available to those present, otherwise there is a complete disconnect with the context.
3) “… to keep giving them their measure of food …”. It is important to note that this is the nature of the appointment. Would Peter (as well as others) receive such an appointment at some point in the future? To get the answer we can simply read John 21:15-17. Jesus three times tells Peter to take care of his sheep (who would most certainly be the congregation and therefore form his “body of attendants”), twice using the term “feed my lambs (or little sheep)”.
There we have it. A completely fulfilled answer to Peter’s question. No awkwardness or speculation. The beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus parable is recorded clearly in Scripture.
This does not rule out that others could also be faithful stewards down to the end. Indeed, this is the beauty of Jesus’ answer by use of this parable. The true answer to Peter’s question is “Not just to you Peter, but also not necessarily to ALL. It depends on the receiver of the word as to whether this will apply to him or her individually or not.”
The only thing we can say for a certainty is that to exclude Jesus’ audience and the early Christians from this parable, as we now officially do, is contrary to Scripture. In fact, it actually seems irreverent to assert that Peter—one of the pillars of the congregation, and one of the foundation stones of new Jerusalem—could not have been counted as a faithful slave by Jesus in the context of this parable.