A “Slave” Who Is Both Faithful and Discreet

“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics?”​—MATTHEW 24:45.

1, 2. Why is it vital that we receive a regular supply of spiritual food today?

ON Tuesday afternoon, Nisan 11, 33 C.E., Jesus’ disciples raised a question that has profound meaning for us today. They asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” In reply, Jesus uttered a remarkable prophecy. He spoke of a tumultuous period of wars, famines, earthquakes, and diseases. And that would only be “a beginning of pangs of distress.” There would be worse to come. What a frightening prospect!​—Matthew 24:3, 7, 8, 15-22; Luke 21:10, 11.

2 Since 1914, most aspects of Jesus’ prophecy have been fulfilled. The “pangs of distress” are upon mankind in full measure. Still, true Christians need not be afraid. Jesus promised that he would sustain them with nourishing spiritual food. Since Jesus is now in heaven, how has he arranged for us here on earth to receive our spiritual food supply?

3. What arrangements has Jesus made for us to receive “food at the proper time”?

3 Jesus himself pointed to the answer to that question. In the course of his great prophecy, he asked: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?” Then he said: “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) Yes, there would be a “slave” who had been assigned to provide spiritual food, a “slave” who would be both faithful and discreet. Was that slave a particular individual, a succession of individuals, or something else? Since the faithful slave supplies desperately needed spiritual food, it is in our interests to find the answer.

An Individual or a Class?

4. How do we know that “the faithful and discreet slave” cannot be one person?

4 “The faithful and discreet slave” cannot be one person. Why not? Because the slave began serving spiritual food back in the first century, and according to Jesus, the slave would still be doing so when the Master arrived in 1914. That would represent some 1,900 years of faithful service for one individual. Not even Methuselah lived that long!​—Genesis 5:27.

5. Explain why the term “faithful and discreet slave” does not apply to each Christian individually.

 5 Well, might the term “faithful and discreet slave” apply in a general sense to each individual Christian? It is true that all Christians must be faithful and discreet; however, Jesus clearly had something more in mind when he spoke of “the faithful and discreet slave.” How do we know that? Because he said that the “master on arriving” would appoint the slave “over all his belongings.” How could each individual Christian be placed over everything​—over “all” of the Lord’s belongings? Impossible!

6. How was the nation of Israel intended to function as God’s “servant,” or “slave”?

6 The only reasonable conclusion, then, is that Jesus was referring to a group of Christians as “the faithful and discreet slave.” Can there be such a thing as a composite slave? Yes. Seven hundred years before Christ, Jehovah referred to the entire nation of Israel as “my witnesses” and “my servant whom I have chosen.” (Isaiah 43:10) Every member of the nation of Israel from 1513 B.C.E., when the Mosaic Law was given, down to Pentecost 33 C.E. was part of this servant class. Most Israelites did not have a direct share in administering the nation’s affairs or in coordinating its spiritual feeding program. Jehovah used the kings, judges, prophets, priests, and Levites to carry out those tasks. Still, as a nation, Israel was to represent Jehovah’s sovereignty and tell his praises among the nations. Each Israelite was to be a witness of Jehovah.​—Deuteronomy 26:19; Isaiah 43:21; Malachi 2:7; Romans 3:1, 2.

A “Servant” Is Dismissed

7. Why was the ancient nation of Israel disqualified as God’s “servant”?

7 Since Israel was God’s “servant” centuries ago, was it also the slave that Jesus spoke about? No, for ancient Israel sadly turned out to be neither faithful nor discreet. Paul sums up the situation when he quotes Jehovah’s words to the nation: “The name of God is being blasphemed on account of you people among the nations.” (Romans 2:24) Indeed, Israel climaxed a long history of rebellion by rejecting Jesus, at which point Jehovah rejected them.​—Matthew 21:42, 43.

8. When was a “servant” appointed to replace Israel, and under what circumstances?

8 This unfaithfulness on the part of the “servant,” Israel, did not mean that faithful worshipers would be forever cut off from a spiritual food supply. At Pentecost 33 C.E., 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, holy spirit was poured out upon about 120 of his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem. At that moment, a new nation was born. Appropriately, its birth was publicized when its members boldly began telling the inhabitants of Jerusalem about “the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:11) Thus, that new nation, a spiritual nation, became the “servant” that would declare Jehovah’s glory to the nations and supply food at the proper time. (1 Peter 2:9) Fittingly, it came to be called “the Israel of God.”​—Galatians 6:16.

9. (a) Who make up “the faithful and discreet slave”? (b) Who are the “domestics”?

 9 Every member of “the Israel of God” is a dedicated, baptized Christian anointed with holy spirit and having a heavenly hope. Hence, the expression “faithful and discreet slave” refers to all members of that anointed spiritual nation as a group on earth at any particular time from 33 C.E. until now, just as every Israelite living at any time from 1513 B.C.E. until Pentecost 33 C.E. was part of the pre-Christian servant class. Who, though, are the “domestics,” who receive spiritual nourishment from the slave? In the first century C.E., every Christian cherished the heavenly hope. Consequently, the domestics were also anointed Christians, viewed, not as a group, but as individuals. All, including those who held responsible positions in the congregation, needed spiritual food from the slave.​—1 Corinthians 12:12, 19-27; Hebrews 5:11-13; 2 Peter 3:15, 16.

“To Each One His Work”

10, 11. How do we know that not all members of the slave class have the same assignment of work?

10 While “the Israel of God” is the faithful and discreet slave class with an assignment of work, each member also has personal responsibilities. Jesus’ words recorded at Mark 13:34 make this plain. He said: “It is like a man traveling abroad that left his house and gave the authority to his slaves, to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep on the watch.” So each member of the slave class has received an assignment​—to increase Christ’s earthly belongings. He carries out this task according to his own ability and opportunities.​—Matthew 25:14, 15.

11 Further, the apostle Peter told anointed Christians in his day: “In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways.” (1 Peter 4:10) Hence, those anointed ones have the responsibility to minister to one another using the gifts God gave them. Further, Peter’s words indicate that not all Christians would have the same abilities, responsibilities, or privileges. However, each member of the slave class could contribute in some way to the growth of the spiritual nation. How?

12. How did each member of the slave class, whether male or female, contribute to the growth of the slave?

12 First, each one was responsible to be a witness of Jehovah, preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Isaiah 43:10-12; Matthew 24:14) Just before he ascended to heaven, Jesus commanded all of his faithful disciples,  both male and female, to be teachers. He said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”​—Matthew 28:19, 20.

13. What privilege did all anointed ones enjoy?

13 When new disciples were found, they were to be carefully taught to observe all the things that Christ had commanded his disciples. In time, responsive ones became qualified to teach others. Nourishing spiritual food was made available to prospective members of the slave class in many nations. All anointed Christians, male and female, shared in carrying out the commission of making disciples. (Acts 2:17, 18) This work was to continue from the time the slave first began its work until the end of this system of things.

14. To whom were teaching privileges in the congregation limited, and how did faithful anointed women feel about that?

14 Newly baptized anointed ones became part of the slave, and regardless of who initially taught them, they went on to receive instruction from members of the congregation who met the Scriptural qualifications to serve as older men. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9) These appointed men were thus privileged to contribute to the growth of the nation in a special way. Faithful anointed Christian women did not resent that only Christian men were assigned to teach in the congregation. (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35) Rather, they were happy to benefit from the hard work of male members of the congregation and were grateful for the privileges open to women, including that of bringing glad tidings to others. Zealous anointed sisters today manifest the same humble attitude, whether the appointed elders are of the anointed or not.

15. What was one of the main sources of spiritual food in the first century, and who took the lead in providing it?

15 The fundamental spiritual food given in the first century proceeded directly from the pens of the apostles and other disciples who were taking the lead. The letters they wrote​—especially those found among the 27 inspired books that make up the Christian Greek Scriptures—​were circulated among the congregations and without doubt provided the basis for teaching by the local elders. In this way, representatives of the slave faithfully distributed rich spiritual food to sincere Christians. The first-century slave class proved faithful to its commission.

The “Slave” 19 Centuries Later

16, 17. How did the slave class prove itself faithful in carrying out its assignment in the years up to 1914?

16 What about today? When Jesus’ presence began in 1914, did he find a group of anointed Christians who were faithfully dispensing food at the proper time? He certainly did. This group could be clearly identified because of the fine fruitage that it was producing. (Matthew 7:20) History since then has proved this identification to be correct.

17 At the time of Jesus’ arrival, some 5,000 domestics were busy spreading Bible truth. The workers were few, but the slave used a number of ingenious methods to spread the good news. (Matthew 9:38) For example, arrangements were made for sermons on Bible topics to be published in up to 2,000 newspapers. In this way, the truth of God’s Word reached tens of thousands of readers at once. In addition, an eight-hour program combining color slides and motion pictures was prepared. Thanks to this innovative presentation, the Bible’s message, from the beginning of Creation to the end of the Thousand Year  Reign of Christ, was conveyed to audiences totaling over nine million on three continents. Printed literature was another avenue that was used. In 1914, for example, some 50,000 copies of this journal were published.

18. When did Jesus appoint the slave over all his belongings, and why?

18 Yes, when the Master arrived, he found his faithful slave conscientiously feeding the domestics as well as preaching the good news. Greater responsibilities now awaited that slave. Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:47) Jesus did this in 1919, after the slave had passed through a period of testing. Why, though, did “the faithful and discreet slave” receive greater responsibilities? Because the Master had received an increase in his belongings. Jesus was given the kingship in 1914.

19. Explain how the spiritual needs of the “great crowd” have been cared for.

19 What are the belongings over which the newly crowned Master appointed his faithful slave? All the spiritual things that belong to Him here on earth. For example, two decades after Christ’s enthronement in 1914, “a great crowd” of “other sheep” was identified. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) These were, not anointed members of “the Israel of God,” but sincere men and women with an earthly hope, who loved Jehovah and who wanted to serve him just as the anointed did. In effect, they said to “the faithful and discreet slave”: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.” (Zechariah 8:23) These newly baptized Christians partook of the same rich spiritual food as the anointed domestics, and the two classes have shared this spiritual table ever since. What a blessing this has been for members of the “great crowd”!

20. What role has the “great crowd” played in increasing the Lord’s belongings?

20 The members of the “great crowd” gladly joined the anointed slave class as preachers of the good news. As they preached, the Master’s earthly belongings increased, adding to the responsibilities of “the faithful and discreet slave.” With the number of truth seekers swelling, expanded printing facilities became necessary to keep up with the demand for Bible literature. Branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses were established in one land after another. Missionaries were sent out “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) From approximately five thousand anointed ones in 1914, the ranks of God’s praisers have increased to more than six million today, the majority of whom are of the “great crowd.” Yes, indeed, the King’s belongings have increased manyfold since his coronation in 1914!

21. What two parables will we consider in our next study?

21 All of this shows that the slave has been both “faithful and discreet.” Just after he spoke of “the faithful and discreet slave,” Jesus gave two parables that highlighted those qualities: the parable of the discreet and foolish virgins and the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25:1-30) We are intrigued! What meaning do those parables have for us today? We will take up this question in the following article.

What Do You Think?

• Who make up “the faithful and discreet slave”?

• Who are the “domestics”?

• When was the faithful slave appointed over all the Lord’s belongings, and why at that time?

• Who have helped increase the Lord’s belongings in recent decades, and how?

[Study Questions]

[Pictures on page 10]

The first-century slave class proved faithful to its commission