Faithful and Discreet Slave
The parable of the "faithful and discreet slave" is used by Watchtower's Governing Body to justify that in 1919 Jehovah appointed them to lead his people, and that salvation depends on following their directions.
This article is part of the series:
Faithful & Discreet Slave - Does Watchtower's Governing Body represent the faithful and discreet slave, and do they need to be obeyed to "have Jehovah's approval?"
Directed by Holy Spirit - Is the Governing Body directed by holy spirit, and if so, how can it claim to be neither infallible or inspired?
Governing Body - Was there a first century governing body, and how did Watchtower's Governing Body develop?
Matthew 24 and Luke 12 record a number of Jesus' parables, or stories, one of which refers to a faithful and discreet slave.
Matthew 24:45-47 "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."
Luke 12:42-44 "And the Lord said: “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? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, he will appoint him over all his belongings."
The faithful slave is a reference to Joseph, who served Potiphar faithfully whilst he was away. Jesus provided this as an example for all Christians to follow.
Rather than accept this as an example of integrity, Watchtower claims it is a prophecy fundamental to the foundation of the religious structure of Jehovah's Witnesses. Watchtower claims this parable foretold that in 1919, Jesus chose Watchtower's Governing Body to represent him. The faithful and discreet slave was to be a small group of men that would become Jesus sole source of truth.
""The faithful and discreet slave": A small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ's presence. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body." Watchtower 2013 Jul 15 p.22
Upon this basis, Jehovah's Witnesses are told that in order to have a relationship with Jehovah and be worthy of salvation, they must unquestioningly trust the Governing Body.
"Today Jehovah leads the earthly part of his organization by means of “the faithful and discreet slave.” ... We show that we trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things by heeding the direction we receive from the organization and the elders." Watchtower 2022 Feb p.4
"Some may feel that they can interpret the Bible on their own. However, Jesus has appointed the ‘faithful slave’ to be the only channel for dispensing spiritual food. Since 1919, the glorified Jesus Christ has been using that slave to help his followers understand God’s own Book and heed its directives." Watchtower 2016 Nov p.16
"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 2013 Jul 15 p.20
"“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
"We need to obey the faithful and discreet slave to have Jehovah’s approval." Watchtower 2011 Jul 15 p.24 Simplified English Edition
"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
"[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
"But Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization, his "faithful and discreet slave", made up of spirit-anointed ones, to help Christians in all nations to understand and apply properly the Bible in their lives. Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do." Watchtower 1981 Dec 1 p.27
"... show respect for the “faithful and discreet slave” that He is using at the present time. Actually, your very life depends on following this course of action. Remember, too, it is only he that endures to the end that will be saved." Watchtower 1964 Jul 15 p.435
"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
Image source: Watchtower 2013 Jul 15 p.26
Jehovah's Witnesses are told they must follow all instructions they receive from the faithful and discreet slave, regardless of whether they seem to be "unsound," "strange, impractical or illogical."
"How will we be helped if we learn to trust in Jehovah and his representatives? Now is the time to learn to trust in God’s way of doing things by not second-guessing the direction and the decisions of the elders. When the great tribulation strikes, we will be ready to obey even if we receive instructions that seem strange or illogical.—w22.02, pp. 4-6." Watchtower 2022 Dec 15 p.15
"As the end of this system of things draws near, we need to trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things as never before. Why? During the great tribulation, we may receive instructions that seem strange, impractical, or illogical." Watchtower Feb 2022 p.6
"All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not." Watchtower 2013 Nov 15 p.20
The expectation the Governing Body has of its followers is frightening, since their teachings affect what Jehovah's Witnesses believe regarding doctrine, morals, history and the future.
Since the Governing Body wields such grandiose and all-encompassing power, it is important to examine whether there is proof that Watchtower leaders are being used by Jehovah.
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.
|Identifying those used by Jehovah|
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.
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?
This concept became even more ironic when the Watchtower 2013 Jul 15 pp.22,25 stated the Faithful Slave were not been appointed over all Jesus belongings. In 1919, they were appointed over the domestics, but the appointment over all his belongings does not take place until after the Great Tribulation. The "foremost" reason the Slave was demanding trust ceased to exist.
Another line of reasoning is that "mature" Christians will realise that Watchtower 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 can point to membership numbers as evidence of God's favour.
The Governing Body do not display consistency of teachings, having been required to present ongoing changes to doctrine. They have a 100% failure rate for their prophecies or predictions for the timing of the world's end. Neither are they able to perform miracles. There is no proof of their being God's spokesmen, or that they are being used by him.
Who Does the Parable refer to?
Is it apparent that the faithful slave is the Governing Body? No, as shown by Watchtower changing its teaching on who the Faithful Slave is several times. For a detailed article on these changes see Faithful & Discreet Slave Changes.
For many decades, Watchtower taught that the faithful and discreet slave included all 144,000 "anointed" Jehovah's Witnesses. It wasn't until the 2012 Annual Meeting that the Governing Body greatly increased their own authority by announcing that they alone represented the faithful and discreet slave.
Originally, Russell said the Slave was an illustration of the entire body of Christ, the little flock of 144,000 heavenly rulers.
The Slave was described as the little flock - the 144,000 - extending from the time of Jesus.
"Over a period of more than 1,960 years, that work of education has continued, preparing a little flock made up of people from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" to serve with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom." Yearbook 1996 p.3
In 1981, anyone that felt the Slave did not include all the 144,000 were vilified as objectors who were trying to force an interpretation.
"The objectors may argue that not all of Christ's anointed disciples have a share in preparing the spiritual food, so that perhaps the "slave" pictures only the leading ones, and the "domestics" those they serve in the congregation.
There is no point in trying to force an interpretation of the parable. Self-deception is of no benefit and is spiritually damaging. ... Thus we see a clear Scriptural basis for saying that all anointed followers of Christ Jesus make up God's "servant," with Jesus as its Master." Watchtower 1981 Mar 1 pp.24-26
In 2012, the Governing Body completely contradicted itself with the new claim that they alone represent the Faithful Slave.
""Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?"
... From 1919 on, there has always been a small group of anointed Christians at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have supervised our worldwide preaching work and have been directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. In recent years, that group has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses." 2012 Annual meeting jw.org 10th Nov 2012.
Image source: Watchtower 2013 Jul 15 p.22
The reason Watchtower has been so flexible in how it interprets this parable is by completely ignoring the Scriptural context.
Watchtower turns a parable into a prophecy
Jesus provided a story about a faithful slave, with the intention to invoke good behaviour in his followers, not as a prophesy about a group of leaders 2000 years in the future.
The parable is a reference to Potiphar's servant Joseph.
Genesis 39:4-6 "Joseph kept finding favor in his eyes, and he became his personal attendant. So he appointed him over his house, and he put him in charge of all that was his. From the time he appointed him over his house and in charge of all that was his, Jehovah kept blessing the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph, and Jehovah’s blessing came to be on all that he had in the house and in the field. He eventually left everything that was his in Joseph’s care, and he gave no thought to anything except the food he was eating."
Luke 12:42-46 parallels the account of Joseph in vocabulary and story line. Potiphar was absent, during which time Joseph faithfully avoided his wife's advances, until "his master came to his house." (Genesis 39:16) Eventually, Joseph was blessed and appointed over all Pharaoh's belongings when he came to be in charge of supplying the rations of grain during Egypt's time of famine.
As such, the parable was intended as a positive example that all could benefit from. In particular, it is aimed at congregational ministers, which is the common Christian understanding of this story.
"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
The Governing Body say they are trustworthy because Jesus has appointed them.
"There are many reasons to have complete trust in the slave class. First and foremost, Jesus has appointed them over all his precious "belongings." This is a clear indication that he has complete trust in them." Organized to Do Jehovah's Will (2005) p.18
In the video "In Whom Do You Trust?" Mar 2018, Gerrit Lösch declared:
"This is not to say that the slave is perfect, and never make mistakes, but Jehovah and Jesus trust the imperfect slave who cares for things to the best of his ability and with best of motives. Shouldn't we then trust the imperfect slave as well? To appreciate the extent of Jehovah's and Jesus' trust in the faithful slave, reflect on what he has promised its members, he has promised them immortality and incorruption." jwb.201803-2.v 14:15
The following is a copy of notes taken in a 2017 pioneer school.
These notes and Watchtower quotes can be summarised as follows:
This is a classic example of circular reasoning - "Since we tell you that Jesus trusts us, you can trust us."
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 Jehovah is using Watchtower's Faithful and Discreet Slave. If a person believes in the Bible and Jehovah, they will still be disfellowshipped as an apostate if they openly confess that the Watchtower Governing Body 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
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 Watchtower 2013 April 15 does not include Jesus at all in an image depicting the hierarchy of their Organisation Chart. This no longer references Jesus or the Anointed, nor separates the Governing Body from the Faithful Slave, but extends from Jehovah directly to the Governing Body, Branch Committees, Travelling Overseers, Elders, Congregations and finally Publishers.
Unusually for a Christian religion, they have chosen this representation, which does not include Jesus at all, but has the Governing Body directly beneath Jehovah. The image draws on the Celestial Chariot of Ezekiel 1 as a basis for the heavenly part of the Organisation. There is no reason why they could not have used Daniel 7, which the same Watchtower also references, which has Jehovah's Throne on wheels, along with the Son of Man. They could then include Jesus as part of their organizational structure, as surely Jesus is the most important part of any Christian organization.
In the April 2023 morning worship program, the Governing Body were likened to the "voice of Jesus."
"The Governing Body could be likened to the voice of Jesus, the head of the congregation. So when we willingly submit to the faithful slave, we're ultimately submitting to Jesus' authority and direction."
Kenneth Flodin: ‘Jesus’ Yoke Is Kindly’ jwb-095-10.v 3:28 min
This is reminiscent of a quote by Jesus.
Luke 21:8 "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name claiming, 'I am he,' and 'The time is near.' Do not follow them."
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 people 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
Written July 2006, latest update March 2023.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023