The parable of the faithful and discreet slave is used by the Watchtower Governing Body to justify that they have been appointed by God to lead his people, since 1919.
“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 arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to YOU, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” Matthew 24:45-47
This simple parable defines a Jehovah’s Witness. The question from Jesus is fundamental to the existence and structure of the religion and is its foundation Scripture. From it extends the concept that in 1919 God chose the leaders of the Watchtower Society as his sole source of truth and henceforth justify why Jehovah’s Witnesses need to submit unquestioningly to the Watchtower Governing Body.
““The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. 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.”” jw.org 10th Nov 2012
“[A mature christian] does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.” Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14
“Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?” Watchtower 2009 Feb 15 p.27
“To act consistently with our baptism for life and into the Greater Noah we must submit to and cooperate with that slave and its legal instrument, the Watch Tower Society.” Watchtower 1959 Oct 1 p.583
For many decades, the Slave included all “anointed” Witnesses, but during the 2012 Annual Meeting, the Governing Body assumed this role upon themselves alone. For several years prior to 2012, the Governing Body had been making statements to increase its own authority.
“The anointed and their other sheep companions recognize that by following the lead of the modern-day Governing Body, they are in fact following their Leader, Christ.” Watchtower 2010 Sep 15 p.23
These grandiose claims have important implications. Truth changes in line with changes of Watchtower interpretation. Conviction that God reveals the Bible through the Watchtower Governing Body affects what a Jehovah’s Witness believes regarding doctrine, morals, history and the future, and their actions relating to morals and family. With such all-encompassing power, it does well to prove if God is using these Watchtower leaders.
What proof exists to indicate the Governing Body represents the Slave? In Bible times, Jehovah made it simple to recognise those he had chosen to lead his people, through the use of miracles and gifts of the spirit. Watchtower leaders demonstrate none of these indicators.
|Miracles||Jehovah used miraculous works to identify those chosen to lead others. For example:
Noah – Gathering of the animals
Moses – Staff into a snake
Apostles – Gifts of the spirit, such as faith healing
|Prophecy||When Jehovah used a person to make future predictions, the prophecies were always correct. For example, Daniel’s prophecy for the fall of Babylon and the line of world powers||100% of Watchtower predictions have been false, such as that the end of the world would be in 1914, then 1925, then 1975. Furthermore, the generation teaching promoted prior to 1995 is about to be proven false, as the last survivors born prior to 1914 die out.|
|Consistency||Bible is harmonious, with Bible writers presenting a message without contradiction.||Watchtower doctrine has been in constant flux. This cannot be explained as new light, as there have been numerous flip flops and contradictions, such as the generation teaching, organ transplants, and superior authorities.|
As the Watchtower is without clear and visible proof of God’s backing, it resorts to unsubstantiated claims of guidance, devoid of any legitimate basis.
The “faithful and discreet slave” has abundant credentials. Following is a partial list of Scriptural and prophetic designations applying to or being represented in the remnant of Jesus Christ’s anointed followers since the notable year 1919:” Watchtower 1981 Mar 1 p.27
The 1981 article follows with a list of 80 “prophetic designations” that the reader is expected to believe foreshadow the modern day slave, including Bible accounts as diverse as “Noah’s wife”, “Angels sent to Lot” and the “Gleaning left behind”. Can these accounts seriously be considered proof that the Watchtower leaders represent the Slave since 1919?
Another line of reasoning is that mature Christians will realise that the Watchtower organisation is guided by Jehovah, due to superiority of doctrine, displays of love and growth in membership.
“Those mature in Christian growth have, through the Scriptures and the evident manifestation of Jehovah’s favor on his faithful and discreet slave, come to appreciate that Jehovah deals with his people as an organization and that his spirit operates in conjunction with that organization. (Matthew 24:45-47)” Watchtower 1958 May 1 p.285
“The abundance of spiritual food and the amazing details of Jehovah’s purposes that have been revealed to Jehovah’s anointed witnesses are clear evidence that they are the ones mentioned by Jesus when he foretold a “faithful and discreet slave” class” Watchtower 1964 Jun 15 p.365
Is self proclamation of being the Slave proof that this is so? Every religion believes they have Scriptural backing for their beliefs and point to membership numbers as evidence of God’s favour.
Who is the Slave?
The common understanding of the parable of the Slave (or Steward in some Bible translations) is that they are congregational ministers.
“Some state that the “slave” refers to Christian ministers, or their office of oversight, with responsibility to care for the spiritual needs of the congregation. The ‘master’s’ arrival is said to be either the second coming of Christ or the death of the individual minister. Thus it is held that the parable should motivate Christian ministers to care well for what is entrusted to them.” Watchtower 1981 Mar 1 p.24
In Commentary on Matthew 24, Matthew Henry writes:
“Concerning the good servant; he shows here what he is-a ruler of the household; what, being so, he should be-faithful and wise; and what, if he be so, he shall be eternally-blessed. Here are good instructions and encouragements to the ministers of Christ. First, We have here his place and office. … The church of Christ is his household Secondly, His right discharge of this office. The good servant, if thus preferred, will be a good steward; for, 1. He is faithful; stewards must be so, 1 Co. 4:2. He that is trusted, must be trusty; and the greater the trust is, the more is expected from them. It is a great good thing that is committed to ministers (2 Tim. 1:14); and they must be faithful, as Moses was, Heb. 3:2. Christ counts those ministers, and those only, that are faithful, 1 Tim. 1:12. A faithful minister of Jesus Christ is one that sincerely designs his master’s honour, not his own; delivers the whole counsel of God, not his own fancies and conceits; follows Christ’s institutions and adheres to them; regards the meanest, reproves the greatest, and doth not respect persons.” blueletterbible.org (9 July 2006)
In line with this, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 says;
“Let a man so appraise us as being subordinates of Christ and stewards of sacred secrets of God. Besides, in this case, what is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful.”
This is not the Watchtower understanding.
Being a vague parable, the Watchtower has been able to use a range of preconceived notions to arrive at a variety of interpretations for the Slave, highlighted by numerous changes to their Doctrine.
Originally, Russell said the Slave was an illustration of the entire body of Christ, the little flock of 144,000 heavenly rulers.
“”Who then is that faithful and wise servant whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household,” to give them meat in due season? Is it not that “little flock” of consecrated servants who are faithfully carrying out their consecration vows – the body of Christ – and is not the whole body individually and collectively, giving the meat in due season to the household of faith – the great company of believers?” Zion’s Watch Tower 1881 Oct/Nov p.5
Later, the slave was used to refer to a single person, Pastor Russell. (This interpretation was originally suggested by Russell’s wife in a letter dated 1895. See Zion’s Watch Tower 1906 Jul 15 pp.215-216 for a reprint of the letter.) Russell was thought to have been appointed as the Slave to direct the domestics (Jesus true followers) immediately prior to the Second Coming.
“In our examination of this text we seem to have treated the term “that servant” as though the Spirit had erred in saying “that servant” when it meant servants (plural), and we applied it to all true servants of God. … The objection urged is that the Lord’s words clearly mention and distinguish between his “household” (his faithful people in general), the “fellow-servants” (plural) , and “that servant” specially indicated as the Lord’s agent in dispensing present truth as food to his “fellow-servants” and the “household.” Zion’s Watch Tower 1896 Mar 1 pp.47,48
“However much we might endeavor to apply this figure to the Lord’s people collectively, the fact would still remain that the various items stated would not fit to a company of individuals. For instance, in the 42nd verse, in the common version it is rendered, that faithful steward; the revised version, the faithful steward; as though a particular one were meant and the term not used indefinitely for a number. Turning to the Greek text we find that the emphasis is there also and in double form–the faithful, the wise steward. …at the time of the parable’s fulfillment the Lord would appoint a servant in the household to bring these matters to the attention of all the servants, and that certain responsibilities would rest upon such a one respecting the dispatch of his duties… ” Zion’s Watch Tower 1904 Apr 15 p.125
“Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell’s writings believe that he filled the office of “that faithful and wise servant,” and that his great work was giving to the Household of Faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation.” Watch Tower 1916 Dec 1 p.356
Russell continued to be considered the Faithful Slave after his death in 1916, and up until 1926. (Apparently, in the 1922 booklet The Parable of the Penny, Rutherford was described as the Faithful Steward, but I have been unable to find a copy to verify if this was in deed the case.)
“THE WATCH TOWER unhesitatingly proclaims Brother Russell as “that faithful and wise servant.” He delivered the message faithfully, finished his course and has now entered into his reward. Through him the Lord gave to the church the message that is so essential to each one who in this harvest time would win the glorious prize.” Watch Tower 1917 Mar 1 p.67
“We believe that all who are now rejoicing in present truth will concede that Brother Russell faithfully filled the office of special servant of tile Lord; and that he was made ruler over all the Lord’s goods.” Watch Tower 1923 Mar 1 p.68
However, a new interpretation would become necessary. In 1926, Rutherford re-interpretted the Faithful Slave to be not a single person, but a group of people. Thus the interpretation had come full circle, but this time the servant included Jesus as well as the 144,000.
“Seeing then that The Servant of Jehovah is The Christ, and that The Christ is composed of Jesus and the faithful members of his body, we find it proper to apply the term “Servant” to Jesus Christ alone or to Jesus Christ and the members of his body collectively as one; and sometimes it is applied only to the members of the body of Christ yet on earth.” Watchtower 1927 Feb 15 p.53
Over time, Jesus was removed from the role of faithful servant, so once more it was just the little flock. Refinements to this interpretation resulted in a convoluted doctrine, with this single Slave described as a class of people that feed the same class of people! For many decades it was taught that the slave and the domestics were both the same group of people. The 144,000 anointed ones were the slave as a whole, yet individually the same 144,000 were the domestics that as a group they rule over. The faithful and discreet slave became the 144,000 collectively. The domestics became the 144,000 individually. The 144,000 fed the 144,000. The rest of Jehovah’s Witnesses and worldly people were not directly mentioned in this parable. This was explained in the following article.
“If all the anointed as a group, no matter where on earth they live, are members of the slave class, who are the “domestics”? They are the same anointed ones but considered from a different viewpoint-as individuals. Yes, as individuals they would be of the “slave” or they would be “domestics,” depending on whether they were dispensing spiritual food or partaking of it. To illustrate: As recorded at 2 Peter 3:15, 16, the apostle Peter makes reference to Paul’s letters. When reading them, Peter would be as one of the domestics feeding on the spiritual food provided by Paul as a representative of the slave class.” Watchtower 1995 May 15 p.16
Not only was this bizarre concept unnecessarily confusing, in reality the Watchtower Society does not operate this way. The majority of the 144,000 do not feed the sheep, in that they are not involved in establishing Watchtower doctrines, rules or procedures of the organization. The Governing Body alone has say in what is fed to the sheep.
Few of the Anointed Witnesses I have known have written any Watchtower articles or developed any doctrine or procedure. In recent times, most articles are written by members of the Other Sheep and simply authorised by the Governing Body.
“4. Those used as writers must be dedicated, baptized brothers or sisters in good standing with their local congregations and who have writing ability. They should be exemplary, modest, not inclined to talk loosely to others about their writing activity. … 5. PREPARING MATERIAL: The subjects on which articles may be written are quite varied. Some articles will deal with spiritual matters, and these should be written by brothers.” Branch Organization Manual p.24-1 Paragraph 4
Since its formation, the Governing Body has varied in size between seven and and eighteen anointed men. When the Watchtower says to follow the “faithful and discreet slave” the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses understood this to mean following the rules of the Governing Body, as only these members direct the Organization.
From around 2009, the Watchtower openly admitted the Governing Body leaders represented the Slave, and began downplaying the importance of the rest of the Anointed. For instance, review the following quotes from the Watchtower 2009 June 15:
“However, Christians who have truly received this anointing do not demand special attention. They do not believe that their being of the anointed gives them special insights beyond what even some experienced members of the “great crowd” may have.” p.23
“Today, the Governing Body represents the faithful and discreet slave class.” Image p.23
“Similarly, today a limited number of anointed men have the responsibility of representing the slave class. They make up the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” p.24
This same sentiment was expressed in 2010.
“Would all anointed Christians “shine”? In a sense, yes, for all Christians would participate in preaching, in disciple making, and in building one another up at meetings. Anointed ones would set the example. (Zech. 8:23) In addition to this, however, deep things were to be revealed during the time of the end. The very prophecy Daniel recorded was “sealed up” until that time. (Dan. 12:9) How and through whom would the spirit search into these deep things?
When the time comes to clarify a spiritual matter in our day, holy spirit helps responsible representatives of “the faithful and discreet slave” at world headquarters to discern deep truths that were not previously understood. (Matt. 24:45; 1 Cor. 2:13) The Governing Body as a whole considers adjusted explanations. (Acts 15:6) What they learn, they publish for the benefit of all.” Watchtower 2010 Jul 15 pp.22,23
Whilst it was stated that the Governing Body direct the rest of the Anointed, it was not explained where this left the rest of the Anointed, or how they were used as part of the Slave.
“As Head of the Christian congregation, Christ has used this “faithful and discreet slave” to administer His Kingdom interests on earth. He has provided direction for the anointed “domestics” and their “other sheep” companions by means of a Governing Body.” Examining the Scriptures Jul 15
In 2011, it was claimed it is not even necessary to know who the Anointed are.
“A number of factors — including past religious beliefs or even mental or emotional imbalance — might cause some to assume mistakenly that they have the heavenly calling. We thus have no way of knowing the exact number of anointed ones on earth; nor do we need to know.” Watchtower 2011 Aug 15 p.22
The concept that all Anointed are of the Slave fell apart with these indications that as a whole the Anointed are not of importance. It had become clear that only the Governing Body have any influence in “feeding the sheep” and running the organisation, and regard themselves alone as representing the Slave. This became official at the 2012 Annual Meeting.
“The evidence points to the following conclusion: “The faithful and discreet slave” was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. 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.”” jw.org 10th Nov 2012
How is 1919 Derived?
A lot of emphasis is placed on 1919, so how solid is the doctrine supporting this year?
The explanation is that Jesus started ruling in heaven in October 1914. Three and a half years later, in June 1918, he came to inspect his earthly organisation. This is based on Revelation 11:2,3, regarding the temple being trampled for 42 months or 1260 days (3 1/2 years). June 1918 corresponds to the period Rutherford and the rest of the Watchtower board of directors were put in jail. 9 months later, in March 1919, the Watchtower board of directors were released. The 9 month period is based on the 3 1/2 days of Revelation 11:9. This corresponds with Jesus appointing the Watchtower Governing Body as his slave.
Each step is a failure in logic.
- The year 1914 is based on a shaky foundation.
- Jesus rulership is said to have commenced in October, but the 42 months are said to have started in December, with no explanation of the 2 month gap.
- The 42 months of Revelation 11 is said to be a literal 42 months, but the 3 1/2 days from the same passage in Revelation 11 is said to be figurative of 9 months. (3 1/2 years = 3 1/2 years … 3 1/2 days = 9 months
- The release of Rutherford from jail was irrelevant to most people, and hardly can be said that the result was “great fear fell upon those beholding them.”
- There was no Governing Body in 1919. At the time, Watchtower doctrine was authorised solely by one man, the Watchtower President; Rutherford.
The table is taken from the Ministerial Training School notes, as conducted during the mid 2000’s. It graphically outlines the Watchtower’s reasoning above, as well as highlight the discrepency by a multiple of 75 in the time frame of the 3.5 days and 1,260 days.
It should be a matter of grave concern for a Jehovah’s Witness that the underlying doctrine for the year so key to their leadership’s authoritarin claims is based on such baseless Scriptural manipulation.
The Watchtower claims the Slave has been given all authority.
“The facts of modern history show that in the year 1919 [Jesus] revived these much afflicted disciples and gathered them together in a united body. Then he appointed them as his “slave” class “over all his belongings,” that is, over all his royal interests at the earth.” Watchtower 1971 Dec 15 p.750
This is not what was intended by the Scriptures. The Bible states that the appointment over all the belongings is made after the master arrives.
Matthew 24:46,47 “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving (erchomai) finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
The master has not yet arrived, as the memorial is to cease on his arrival, and so the Slave has not been appointed over all the belongings.
1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives (erchomai).”
The leaders have prematurely seized control for themselves, and consolidated that control. The 2012 version of the doctrine leaves Christians uncared for between 33 CE and 1919 CE, and elevates the exclusivity and importance of Governing Body. This is in contrast to the parable, which indicates that at this time the elders are to be shepherds of the congregation.
One would expect that the definition of a Jehovah’s Witness is a person that worships Jehovah. However, the defining concept to being a Jehovah’s Witness is not worship of Jehovah, but rather following the “faithful and discreet slave”. In a judicial committee, the foremost question is not whether a Witness believes the Bible or worships Jehovah, but whether they believe God is using the Watchtower Faithful and Discreet Slave in our day. If a person believes in the Bible and Jehovah, they will still be disfellowshipped as an apostate if they openly confess that the Watchtower leaders do not represent Jehovah’s slave.
The Governing Body has managed to deflect attention from Jesus by means of their doctrine that Jesus is mediator for the Slave class alone, and that salvation can only be achieved through association with the Slave.
“He is the Mediator between his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and the nation of spiritual Israel, which is limited to only 144,000 members. ” Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace” (1986) pp.10-11
“Jesus knew that he was going to purchase these anointed ones with his own blood, so he fittingly referred to them collectively as his slave.” Watchtower 1993 May 1 p.16
“To keep in relationship with “our Savior, God,” the “great crowd” needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites.” Watchtower 1979 Nov 15 p.27 Benefiting from “One Mediator Between God and Men”
Rather than draw people to Jesus, the Governing Body misapply the parable of the Faithful and Discreet Slave to direct attention to themselves, inserting their authority between Jesus and his followers.
The Governing Body use the Slave concept to say that without them the Bible is beyond understanding.
“However, we cannot hope to acquire a good relationship with Jehovah if we ignore those whom Jesus has appointed to care for his belongings. Without the assistance of “the faithful and discreet slave,” we would neither understand the full import of what we read in God’s Word nor know how to apply it.” Examining the Scriptures Daily 2012 Mar 4
“All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the “greatly diversified wisdom of God” can become known only through Jehovah’s channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave” Watchtower 1994 Oct 1 p.8
“We have the opportunity to show love for our brothers who take the lead in the congregation or in connection with Jehovah’s visible organization worldwide. This includes being loyal to “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Let us face the fact that no matter how much Bible reading we have done, we would never have learned the truth on our own. We would not have discovered the truth regarding Jehovah, his purposes and attributes, the meaning and importance of his name, the Kingdom, Jesus’ ransom, the difference between God’s organization and Satan’s, nor why God has permitted wickedness.” Watchtower 1990 Dec 1 p.19
“Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.” Watchtower 1967 Oct 1 p.587
The Bible has been provided for us to know God’s requirements. Has the Watchtower enlightened people beyond the words of Jesus? Is it not more accurate to say that what the Watchtower has said beyond that contained in the Bible has regularly been wrong and later changed? Information such as:
- Failed time prophecies
- Strange medical information and dangerous decrees such as that vaccinations and transplants are unchristian
- The changing stance on blood
By going beyond the guidelines given in the Scriptures on disfellowshipping, have not the Slave created a practice that has had a destructive effect on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, dividing families for decades?
When a group of men claim special guidance from God as his sole representatives, they risk controlling people without justification, leading to disastrous results for the followers. Christians do well to keep in mind Bible warnings about following humans, and remember who their head really is.
“Do not put YOUR trust in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” Psalms 146:3
“But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3
Related to the topic of the Faithful and Discreet Slave are the articles: