Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?—Matt. 24:45.
When early in the last century a small group of diligent Bible students was appointed as “the faithful and discreet slave,” much of their communication with the “domestics” was in English. That “slave” has put forth great effort to make spiritual food available in more and more languages; the number has now risen to over 700. There was also a need for a Bible that would accurately convey in modern speech the intent of the original writings. The New World Bible Translation Committee was formed, and over a ten-year period from 1950 to 1960, the committee’s translation was released in six volumes. When releasing the first volume on August 2, 1950, Brother N. H. Knorr expressed the hope that this translation would spread its spiritual help to millions of people.
The work the Watchtower has accomplished is truly impressive. And it is not merely the fact that JW.org is recognized as the most translated website on the planet, by a wide margin, but more impressively, over the past century the Watchtower has trained and motivated millions of otherwise average persons to become public ministers. That is no small feat considering the personal sacrifice involved on the part of those who submit to the program.
And make no mistake, while some may claim that Mormons do a similar ministry, such is not the case. Only Mormon youths engage in their so-called mission and that for only two years. Whereas, Jehovah’s Witnesses make a life-long commitment to their ministry. This sort of dedication and perseverance in preaching a very unpopular message can only come from a depth of spiritual strength and faith. And to that end there has most assuredly been a faithful slave who has been true to his commission to feed Christ’s servants with the spiritual food necessary for them to fully accomplish their ministry.
However, why did Jesus frame his discussion about the faithful slave in the form of a question, as in: “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?”
Is there some question about the identity of the slaves whom Christ appointed? No. There shouldn’t be. Is there some unanswered question about what the “food supplies at the proper time” might consist of? Again, no. There should be no question that Christ has seen to it that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been spiritually nourished, otherwise how could they possibly have accomplished the work to the extent that they have?
The reason Jesus left us with the open-ended question has to do with whether or not the individuals assigned as overseers to the spiritual feeding program will be found faithful when the master arrives for his surprise inspection. That there are two sorts of slaves and two very different outcomes for each is the point of the illustration.
Whereas, the Watchtower’s latest “adjustment” (July 2013 Watchtower) that shifted the appointment of the slave over all the master’s belongings from 1918 to the future also dissolved the evil slave into a mere “what if?” hypothetical, in Jesus’ more extensive discussion of the two slaves in the 12th chapter of Luke it is clear that there are two sorts of slaves. One is willfully disobedient and the other is merely ignorant of the master’s will. Jesus explained: “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.”
Please note that the slave who understood his master’s will did not fail to feed the domestics their food at the proper time. He is punished for having also beat his fellow slaves and for saying inwardly, in his heart: “my master is delaying.” In either case, both slaves are put through an experience —a symbolic flogging. The willfully disobedient slave who is lashed with many strokes is obviously the wicked slave, whom the master will ‘punish with the greatest severity and assign him a part with the unfaithful ones.’
When will the master call his appointed slaves to account? According to Jesus it is when he comes at a time his slaves do not think likely. That is why Jesus prefaced his illustration of the faithful and evil slaves by saying: “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. 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! 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.”
As Jehovah’s Witnesses know the cornerstone of the Watchtower’s entire doctrine is that Jesus returned in 1914 and began ruling the world and Jesus’ invisible presence has been ongoing ever since. As we know, the Greek word translated in the NWT as presence is parousia. It literally means “being alongside.”
Now, if necessary re-read what Jesus stated above as regards what he intends to do when he arrives at an unexpected hour. He said he “will come alongside and minister to them.” In other words, the judgment of the slave coincides with the parousia. Not only that, as has been pointed out, the parousia is used interchangeably with the Greek words epiphaneia and apokalypsis, which are translated as manifestation and revelation, respectively. So, in the case of the faithful slave Christ’s presence alongside his disciples is undertaken so he may minister to them directly – no doubt post-lashing; whereas, his presence, or manifestation to the evil slave, or man of lawlessness, results in his being done away with. Here is what the inspired apostle wrote in that regard: “Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.”
Obviously, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no inkling of any sort of future parousia. Nor does the concept of a glorious manifestation or revelation of Christ hold any meaning either. No doubt this is why the coming of the Son of man will be at an hour thought unlikely, since the object and manner of the Lord’s return has been so thoroughly obfuscated by the Watchtower from its very inception. And it is also why even the faithful slave is destined to be beaten with a few strokes for having ignorantly perpetuated the 1914 hoax and many other evils.
Truly, as has been documented on this site, what the faithful slave does not understand is voluminous.