New light on the Watchtower's faithful discreet slave

by Mike Felkner
edited by Matt Slick

“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. New World Translation, emphasis added).

As recently as 2007, the Watchtower taught that a select group of 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses comprised the “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew 24:45. 

“Just as all members of ancient Israel formed one ‘servant,’ so also all anointed Christians on earth at any one time form one ‘faithful and discreet slave,’” (Watchtower, November 1, 2007, p. 30, emphasis added).

According to the Watchtower (i.e., the JW publishing corporation), these so-called “anointed Christians,” which number the 144,000 are unique in the following ways:

  • They rule and reign with Jesus in heaven
  • They partake of the bread and wine
  • Jesus is their exclusive mediator
  • They are born again

The Watchtower teaching argues that while the 144,000 were the “faithful and discreet slave” and responsible for dispensing “food at the proper time,” it is the “Governing Body” who represents the 144,000 and leads the worldwide organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

As of July 15, 2013, this is considered to be “old light” (i.e., no longer true) by the Governing Body.  Rather than viewing the entire group of 144,000 as the “faithful slave,” it is the Governing Body alone who is the “faithful slave.” 

“Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence,” (Watchtower, July 15, 2013, p. 22).

This “small group” is the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They demand absolute unquestionable obedience from all Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.  Therefore, to question them is to question God. 

How does the Governing Body come to the conclusion that they alone are the “faithful slave” of Matthew 24:45? 

“That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel,” (Watchtower, July 15, 2013, p. 20).

Followers of Jesus agree that it is Christians who preach, teach, and admonish fellow believers (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Therefore, we would not advocate the unscriptural idea that followers of Christ live the Christian life on their own (Hebrews 13:17). Christians differ with the Watchtower in identifying this “channel” as the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses instead of all those who faithfully preach and teach Scripture. 

The Governing Body concludes that they alone are the “faithful slave” by a supposed inspection that took place between 1914 and 1919.  During this inspection, Jesus and Jehovah inspected all Christians worldwide and found the “Bible Students” (now called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”) to be the only ones whose hearts were really with Jehovah and the Bible.  Therefore, Jesus selected a small group of anointed (i.e., among the 144,000) JW’s to be the “faithful slave.” 

There are many problems with this approach.  First, there is no biblical evidence that an inspection took place between 1914 and 1919.  While the Watchtower cites Malachi 3:1-3, there is no evidence that this refers to an inspection that would take place thousands of years after its “initial” fulfillment.

The Watchtower even admits that Malachi 3:1-3 is referring to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple during His earthly ministry (Matt. 21:12-13; John 2:14-17).  While there are other ways of looking at this prophecy, let’s say for the sake of argument that we agree with the Watchtower.  What does this have to do with an inspection between 1914-1919 where Jesus chooses the Governing Body as the “faithful slave”?  Nothing.

The Watchtower interprets an “inspection” from Malachi 3:3 in assuming there is a second fulfillment of the prophecy.  However, they provide no biblical evidence for this.  Instead, it is assumed that the “cleansing” spoken of in Malachi 3:3 finds its second fulfillment in various events that transpired within the JW organization between 1914 and 1917.  This included outside opposition to the Watchtower Society as well as internal struggles where the leadership was challenged. 

Due to the supposed faithfulness of the JW’s during these difficult years, it is claimed that this is what led Jesus to choose the Society’s leadership as the “faithful slave.”  These points related to 1914-1919 should encourage Christians to challenge the Watchtower Society.  If the year span of 1914-1919 is proven to be biblically insignificant, then the JW leadership can no longer justify their self-proclaimed authority.       

“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45)

The Watchtower’s interpretation of Matthew 24:45 is extremely problematic.  By putting together an array of highly speculative and complex chronological threads, they come to the conclusion that 1914 is the day in which Christ began his rule at the “conclusion of this system of things.”  This is contrary to the biblical view that Christ began His rule at His ascension (Eph. 1:20-22).

In addition, they argue that Christ has been “present” since 1914.  While this year is considered to be the “beginning of the end,” it supposedly follows that Matthew 24 is speaking of events following 1914.  Therefore, this “faithful slave” will appear after 1914 rather than during the first century as previously taught by the Watchtower. 

This is a very problematic interpretation of Matthew 24.  In verse 45, the master puts his slave in charge.  Then, in verse 46, the master returns.  This implies that the master was away.  This creates a big problem for the Watchtower because they are claiming that the master is present during this appointment that supposedly happened in 1919. 

Another difficulty arises when we consider that the Watchtower leaders have already declared themselves to be the “faithful and discreet slave," but when does Jesus declare them to be “faithful and discreet”?  According to Matthew 24:45, He declares this when he returns.  Therefore, it is nothing short of presumptuous and arrogant for someone to claim this position before Christ actually returns to bless those who are faithful and discreet. 

This next point is likely to be the most detrimental that the Watchtower has yet to address.  Many JW’s may not realize that there is a parallel account in Luke regarding the “faithful slave.”  In Luke 12:37, Jesus describes the blessing of the slave when He returns.  Peter’s response to the parable is noteworthy: “Lord, are you addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”  If Jesus were referring to a small group of men that would appear 2,000 years later, then He surely would have made this clear.  Instead, He goes on to explain the parable similarly to Matthew’s account in 24:45.  Jesus is providing an answer to Peter’s question and directing it to the audience of Jesus.  Therefore, there must be persons in Jesus’ audience who are the “faithful and discreet slave.”

So who really is the “faithful and discreet slave”?   The answer is very simple: anyone who is found faithful to Christ’s command to “give them their rations at the proper time,” (Luke 12:42) when He returns.  Surely these faithful slaves have existed since the first century.  After all, Jesus directly admonished Peter to “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17). 

This issue of the Governing Body’s unique appointment as the “faithful and discreet slave” is one in which Christians should be encouraged to challenge JW’s.  There is very little in which the JW can use to substantiate these new claims by the Watchtower.  Therefore, if confidence in the leadership is questioned, this may create an excellent opportunity to share the gospel; but until then, JW’s will continue to believe anything that their leaders teach.  Consequently, they will hold to the false gospel that the Watchtower’s message truly is.