This is what the contributing members of this forum believe is the scriptural interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the faithful and discreet slave.
- The arrival of the master depicted in the parable of the faithful and discreet slave refers to Jesus’ arrival just before Armageddon.
- The appointment over all the master’s belongings occurs when Jesus arrives.
- The domestics depicted in that parable refer to all Christians.
- The slave was appointed to feed the domestics in 33 C.E.
- There are three other slaves as per Luke’s account of the parable.
- All Christians have the potential to be included in those whom Jesus will declare to be faithful and discreet upon his arrival.
This fourth article from the July 15, 2013 Watchtower introduces a number of new understandings about the nature and appearance of the faithful slave of Mt. 24:45-47 and Luke 12:41-48. (Actually, the article pretty much ignores the more complete parable found in Luke, perhaps because elements of that account are hard to fit into the new framework.)
Among other things, the article introduces “new truth” for which no evidence is presented. Among these are the following key points:
- The slave was appointed to feed the domestics in 1919.
- The slave is comprised of prominent qualified men at headquarters when they act together as the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses.
- There is no evil slave class.
- The slave beaten with many strokes and the slave beaten with few are completely ignored.
A 1919 Appointment
Paragraph 4 states: “The context of the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave shows that it began to be fulfilled…in this time of the end.”
How so, you may ask? Paragraph 5 continues “the illustration of the faithful slave is part of Jesus’ prophecy of the conclusion of the system of things.” Well, Yes, and No. Part of it is, and part of it isn’t. The first part, the initial appointment could easily have occurred in the first century—as we originally believed—without disrupting anything. The fact that we claim it must be fulfilled after 1919 because it is part of the last days prophecy is frankly hypocritical. What do I mean by hypocritical, you may ask? Well, the application we officially give to Mt. 24:23-28 (part of the last days prophecy) puts its fulfillment as starting after 70 C.E. and continuing onward down to 1914. (w94 2/15 p.11 par. 15) If that can be fulfilled outside of the last days, then so can the first part, the initial appointment part, of the faithful steward parable. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Paragaph 7 introduces a red herring.
“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. So why would anyone need to ask who really was appointed by Christ to take the lead?“
See how subtly we’ve introduced the idea that the parable deals with an appointment of someone to take the lead? See also how we imply that it is possible to identify the slave by looking for someone who takes the lead. Two red herrings dragged across our trail.
The fact is that no one can identify the faithful and discreet slave before the arrival of the Lord. That is what the parable says. There are four slaves and all engage in the feeding work. The evil slave beats his fellow slaves. Obviously, he uses his position to lord it over others and abuse them. He may be taking the lead by force of personality, but he’s not faithful nor discreet. Christ appoints the slave to feed, not rule. Whether or not he turns out to be faithful and discreet will depend on how he performs that assignment.
We know who Jesus initially appointed to do the feeding. In 33 C.E. he is recorded as saying to Peter, “Feed my little sheep”. The miraculous gifts of the spirit they and others received gave evidence of their appointment. That just makes sense. Jesus says the slave is appointed by the master. Wouldn’t the slave have to know he was being appointed? Or would Jesus appoint someone to a life-or-death duty without telling him so? Framing it as a question indicates not who is appointed, but rather who would live up to that appointment. Consider every other parable involving slaves and a departing master. The question isn’t about who the slaves are, but what type of slave they will prove to be upon the master’s return—a good one or an evil one.
When is the slave identified? When the master arrives, not before. The parable (Luke’s version) speaks of four slaves:
- The faithful one.
- The evil one.
- The one beaten with many strokes.
- The one beaten with a few strokes.
Each of the four is identified by the master upon his arrival. Each receives his reward or punishment when the master arrives. We now admit, after a literal lifetime of teaching the wrong date, that his arrival is yet future. We are finally coming into alignment with what the rest of Christendom teaches. However this decades-long error has not humbled us. Instead, we presume to claim that Rutherford was the faithful slave. Rutherford died in 1942. Following him, and prior to the formation of the Governing Body, the slave would have presumably been Nathan Knorr and Fred Franz. In 1976, the Governing Body in its current form took power. How presumptuous is it of the Governing Body to declare themselves as the faithful and discreet slave before Jesus himself makes that determination?
The Elephant in the Room
In these four articles, a key piece of the parable is missing. The magazine makes no mention of it, not even a hint In each and every one of Jesus’ master/slaves parables there are certain common elements. At some point the master appoints the slaves to some task, then leaves. Upon his return the slaves are rewarded or punished based on their performance of the task. There’s the parable of the minas (Luke 19:12-27); the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30); the parable of the doorkeeper (Mark 13:34-37); the parable of the marriage feast (Mt. 25:1-12); and last but not least, the parable of the faithful and discreet slave. In all of these the master assigns a commission, departs, returns, judges.
So what’s missing? The departure!
We used to say the master appointed the slave in 33 C.E. and departed, which coincides with Bible history. We used to say he returned and rewarded the slave in 1919, which doesn’t. Now we say that he appoints the slave in 1919 and rewards him at Armageddon. Before we got the start right and the end wrong. Now we have the end right and the start wrong. Not only is there no evidence, historical or Scriptural to prove 1919 is the time the slave was appointed, but there is also the elephant in the room: Jesus didn’t depart for anywhere in 1919. Our teaching is that he arrived in 1914 and has been present every since. One of our core teachings is the 1914/last days presence of Jesus. So how can we claim he appointed the slave in 1919 when all the parables indicate that after the appointment, the master left?
Forget everything else about this new understanding. If the Governing Body cannot explain from Scripture how Jesus appointed the slave in 1919 and then left, so as to return at Armageddon and reward the slave, then nothing else about the interpretation matters because it cannot be true.
What of the Other Slaves in the Parable?
As much as we’d like to leave it at that, there are a few more things that don’t work with this new teaching.
Since the slave now consists of only eight individuals, there is no room for a literal fulfillment of the evil slave—not to mention the other two slaves that get the strokes. With only eight individuals to choose from, which ones are going to turn out to be the evil slave? An embarrassing question, wouldn’t you say? We can’t have that, so we reinterpret this part of the parable, claiming it is only a warning, a hypothetical situation. But there’s also the the slave who knew the will of the master and didn’t do it and who gets many strokes. And there’s the other slave who didn’t know the will of the master so disobeyed out of ignorance. He’s beaten with a few strokes. What of them? Two more hypothetical warnings? We don’t even attempt to explain. Essentially, we spend an inordinate number of column inches explaining 25% of the parable, while virtually ignoring the other 75%. Was Jesus just wasting his breath in explaining this to us?
What is our basis for saying this part of the prophetic parable has no fulfillment? For that we focus on the opening words of that part: “If ever”. We quote an unnamed scholar who says “that in the Greek text, this passage, “for all practical purposes is a hypothetical condition.”” Hmm? Okay, fair enough. Then wouldn’t that make this a hypothetical condition as well, since it also starts with “if”?
“Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so.” (Luke 12:43)
“Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so.” (Mt. 24:46)
This type of inconsistent application of scripture is transparently self-serving.
The Governing Body Gets Appointed Over All His Belongings?
The article is quick to explain that the appointment over all the master’s belongings goes not only to the members of the Governing Body but to all faithful anointed Christians. How can that be? If the reward for faithfully feeding the sheep is the ultimate appointment, why do others who do not perform the task of feeding get the same reward? To explain this discrepancy, we use the account where Jesus promised the apostles that he would reward them with kingly authority. He’s addressing a small group, but other Bible texts indicate this promise is extended to all anointed Christians. So it’s the same with the Governing Body and all the anointed.
This argument seems logical at first glance. But there is a flaw. It is what is called “a weak analogy”.
The analogy seems to work if one doesn’t look too carefully at its components. Yes, Jesus promised the kingdom to his 12 apostles, and Yes, the promise applies to all the anointed. However, to get the fulfillment of that promise his followers had to do the same thing as the apostles had to do, suffer together faithfully. (Rom. 8:17) They had to do the same thing.
To get appointed over all the master’s belongings the rank and file anointed do not have to do the same thing as the Governing Body/Faithful Steward. One group has to feed the sheep to get the reward. The other group does not have to feed the sheep to get the reward. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
In fact, if the Governing Body fails to feed the sheep, it gets thrown outside, but if the rest of the anointed fail to feed the sheep, they still get the very same reward that the Governing Body miss out on.
The Very Troubling Claim
According to the box on page 22, the faithful and discreet slave is “a small group of anointed brothers…. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body.”
According to paragraph 18, “When Jesus comes for judgment during the great tribulation, he will find that the faithful slave [the Governing Body] has been loyally dispensing timely spiritual food…. Jesus will then delight in making the second appointment—over all his belongings.”
The parable states that the resolution of the question of who this faithful slave is must wait for the arrival of the master. He determines the reward or punishment based on the work of each at the time of his arrival. Despite this clear Scriptural statement, the Governing Body in this paragraph is presuming to pre-empt the judgment of the Lord and declare themselves as already approved.
This they are doing in writing before the world and the millions of faithful Christians they are feeding? Even Jesus wasn’t rewarded until he had passed all the tests and proven himself faithful to the point of death. Whatever their motive for making this assertion, it comes across as unbelievably presumptuous.
(John 5:31) 31 “If I alone bear witness about myself, my witness is not true.
The Governing Body is bearing witness about themselves. Based on Jesus’ words, that witness cannot be true.
What Is Behind All This?
It has been suggested that with the recent growth in the number of partakers, headquarters has been receiving a marked increase in phone calls and letters from brothers and sisters claiming to be of the anointed—the faithful slave based on our previous interpretation—and plaguing the brothers with ideas for changes. In the annual meeting of 2011, brother Splane explained that brothers of the anointed shouldn’t presume to write in to the Governing Body with ideas of their own. This, of course, flies in the face of the old understanding that claimed the entire body of anointed made up the faithful slave.
This new understanding solves that problem. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for it. Or perhaps there is another. Whatever the case, this new teaching consolidates the power of the Governing Body. They now exercise more power than the apostles of old over the congregation. In fact, their power over the lives of the millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide exceeds that of the Pope over Catholics.
Where in Scripture is there proof that Jesus intended there to be a worldly, that is human, authority over his sheep? An authority which has displaced him, because the Governing Body does not claim to be Christ’s appointed channel of communication, even though he is the head of the congregation. No, they claim to be Jehovah’s channel.
But really, who is to blame? Is it them for assuming this authority or us for submitting to it? From our Bible reading this very week we have this gem of divine wisdom.
(2 Corinthians 11:19, 20) . . .For YOU gladly put up with the unreasonable persons, seeing YOU are reasonable. 20 In fact, YOU put up with whoever enslaves YOU, whoever devours [what YOU have], whoever grabs [what YOU have], whoever exalts himself over [YOU], whoever strikes YOU in the face.
Brothers and sisters, let’s just stop doing this. Let us obey God as ruler rather than men. “Kiss the son, that He may not become incensed…” (Ps. 2:12)