Well, we finally have an official pronouncement in writing on the new position the organization has taken vis-à-vis the “faithful and discreet slave”, now available on www.jw.org.
Since we’ve already dealt with this new understanding elsewhere in this forum, we won’t belabor the point here. Rather, in the spirit of the ancient Beroeans, let’s look at the evidence presented by the Governing Body for this new teaching, ‘to see if these things are so’.
[All excerpts are taken from the Annual Meeting Report]
Let’s start with this opening thought:
“Consider the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 24. All the verses listed here were to be fulfilled during Christ’s presence, “the conclusion of the system of things.”—Verse 3.”
Since this premise sets the stage for what is to come, let’s examine it. Where is the evidence that the fulfillment of Matthew chapter 24 occurs during Christ’s presence? Not the last days, but his presence. We just assume the two things are synonymous, but are they?
Where in Scripture do we learn that the disciples believed Jesus would govern invisibly from heaven while the nations continued to rule on earth, blithely unaware of this presence? The question they framed at the start of Matthew chapter 24 was based on what they believed at that time. Is there any scriptural proof that they believed in an invisible presence?
At Mt. 24:3, they asked for a sign to know when he would start ruling and when the end or conclusion[i] would come—two events they obviously believed to be concurrent. A little over a month later, they again asked the question, framing it thus: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6) How do we get an invisible, century-long presence with no visible manifestation of his rulership on earth from these questions?
How is this logical? The slave is appointed to feed the Master’s domestics because the Master is away and cannot care for the duty himself. When the Master returns he rewards the slave that has proven himself faithful and punishes the slaves that have failed in their duty. (Luke 12:41-48) How can it be logical that the master appoints the slave to feed his domestics when the Master is present? If the Master is present, then how can he arrive to find the slave “doing so”?
“From 1919 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have supervised our worldwide preaching work and have been directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. In recent years, that group has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
True, but misleading. The same can be said for any year from the time the world headquarters were established by brother Charles Taze Russell. Why are we signing 1919 as somehow significant?
“The evidence points to the following conclusion: “The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919.”
What evidence are they referring to? No evidence has been provided in this article. They have simply made an assertion, but given us nothing to back it up. Is the evidence available elsewhere? If so, we would welcome any of our readers to provide it using the commenting feature of the forum. As for us, we have not been able to find anything that qualifies as scriptural evidence that 1919 has any significance prophetically whatsoever.
“That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as “the faithful and discreet slave.””
Again, no scriptural evidence is provided to prove that the slave corresponds to brothers working at the world headquarters. What we do have is empirical evidence. However, does that empirical evidence support the conclusion that the eight men of the Governing Body are the slave Jesus spoke of? We state that a “small, composite group of anointed brothers…are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food”. The Governing Body does not, by itself, prepare and dispense spiritual food. In fact, few, if any, articles are written by them. Others write the articles; others dispense the food. So if this is the basis for our deductions, we have to conclude that all those preparing and dispensing the food make up the slave, not just the eight members of the Governing Body.
When is the Slave Identified
Why all the emphasis in our publications on the slave? Why this need to identify the slave now? Here are some interesting stats.
Average yearly occurrence of the term “Governing Body” in the Watchtower:
From 1950 to 1989 17 per year
From 1990 to 2011 31 per year
Average yearly occurrence of the term “Faithful Slave or Steward” in the Watchtower:
From 1950 to 1989 36 per year
From 1990 to 2011 60 per year
The attention given to these terms and their related topics has almost doubled in the last 20 years, since the release of the Proclaimers book in which they were first named and pictured.
Again, of all Jesus parables, why the emphasis on this one? More important, who are we to identify the slave? Isn’t that for Jesus to do? He says the identification of the slave is done when he arrives and judges the conduct of each one.
There are four slaves: one who is judged as faithful and rewarded, one who is judged as evil and punished with the greatest severity, one who gets many strokes, and one who gets few. All are initially commissioned to feed the domestics and their judgment is based on how well or how poorly they have performed this task by the time the master arrives. Since he hasn’t yet arrived, we cannot say who the slave is with any certainly unless we want to be in the position of running ahead of the judgment of the Master, Jesus Christ.
Look at what Jesus actually says:
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so…48 “But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ (Mt. 12:47, 48)
“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. . . .(Luke 12:47, 48)
One slave is commissioned, but four slaves result at the outcome. The faithful slave is not identified by being commissioned to feed the domestics. The four slaves that are identified at the judgment all stem from the one, single commission to feed the domestics. Their judgment is based precisely on how well they performed that duty. The task of feeding isn’t over yet, so it’s too early to say who the faithful slave is.
So again, why do we feel it is necessary to repeatedly (an average of 4 times per issue of the Watchtower) emphasis who the slave is?
[i] Since we contend that the presence of the Christ began in 1914, it follows that the conclusion of the system of things must have begun then as well. We reason that like the conclusion of a book which may run for one or more chapters, the conclusion of the system of things stretches through the last days. However, the word in Greek that we render “conclusion” is sunteleia, meaning “completion, consummation, end”. It is derived from the verb, sunteleó, meaning “I bring to an end, fulfill, accomplish”. It is used in Greek to show that a purchase or contract has been completed, fulfilled, or accomplished. The word conveys the idea of a complex series of parts that are brought together, completed, consummated. For example, there are many parts to a marriage—the courtship, meeting the parents, planning the ceremony, et cetera—but with all that, we say the marriage is only consummated by the couple’s first act of sexual congress. Legally, if that hasn’t happened, the marriage can still be annulled. In Mt. 24:3, sunteleia speaks to the concept of one age ending and another beginning. The disciples, in framing their question wanted to know when the present system of things would reach its consummated conclusion and the next one, the better one, would begin.