1 «Who then is the faithful and prudent administrator, that the Lord will appoint over his household in order to provide them their portion of food at the proper time?» (Luke 12:41)
In this article we consider the meaning of Jesus’s question, which Luke recorded together with the parables on the twelfth chapter of his Gospel, since it involves a very important subject for the disciples of the first century, and also for all those who in our time, want to live as disciples of Christ.
We might wonder why did Jesus spoke of important spiritual arguments through parables, for Scripture says that «Jesus spoke to the multitude of all these things in parables, and did not speak to them except in parables... in order to fulfill what the prophet said: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will proclaim what has been hidden since ancient times”» (Matthew 13:34...35, and Psalm 78:2)
2 Matthew quotes this prophetic psalm of Asaph, which refers to Jesus, and is related to the fact that the crowd that followed him would hear his words willingly, but would not try to discover their deep spiritual meaning. So when the disciples asked him: «“Why do you speak to them in parables?” He replied: “Because to you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Likewise, to he who has shall be given, and he will be in abundance, but to him who has not, even what he has shall be taken away. Therefore I speak to them in parables, so that although they can see, do not perceive, and although they can hear, do not listen and do not understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, who said: You will hear but you will not understand, and you will look but you will not see, because the heart of this people has hardened, they have become deaf to hearing and have closed the eyes, to not to see with the eyes nor hear with the ears, and to not understand with the heart and be converted”». (Matthew 13:10...15)
However, this was not the attitude of the disciples; Matthew writes that when «Jesus left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples came to him and said: “Explain us the parable...”» (Matthew 13:36) And Luke reports that when after speaking to the crowd, «Jesus exclaimed: “Whoever has ears to hear, let him understand”... then his disciples questioned him about the meaning of his parable», being attentive to this warning: «Take heed then, of how you hear», (Luke 8:8...10 and 18)
3 Now, which is the sense of the word parable? Parable, from the Greek term παραβολή (parabolé), indicates a comparison, a similarity. A parable is useful to clarify a difficult argument, by connecting it to some subject easy to understand, usually taken from nature or everyday life.
Through its figurative features, the parables of Jesus teach important spiritual lessons; their language contains educative strength and imparts moral and spiritual instruction. Besides, understanding their meaning requires a concentration that may well open the eyes of those who have a willing heart and a mind eager to learn. For this reason Jesus often said after telling them, «Whoever has ears to hear, let him understand», or in other words, «he who listening carefully, perceives the meaning of what has been said, should take it into account».
4 Luke writes that Jesus exhorted his disciples saying: «Be your loins girded and your lamps burning. Do as those who wait for their master to return from the wedding, to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Happy are those servants who at his arrival, their master finds watching, verily I tell you that he will gird up his clothes, will make them sit at the table, and he will serve them. If he comes at the second or at the third vigil and finds them so, happy are they... Also you be ready, because the Son of Man will come at the time you do not expect» (Luke 12:35…40).
These words gave rise among them to a question, so Peter asked him: «Lord, do you say this parable for us, or also for all the others?» (Luke 12:41). The words of Jesus were addressed to his disciples of all times, but the answer he gave to this question was aimed to a particular group of them, entrusted with a special task. In the first part of his speech, he had told them: «Fear not little flock, because it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom» (Luke 12:32); this little flock did not exclusively consist of the disciples who became his apostles, but also of all those who would in time, belong to the body of Christ, the congregation whose head is Christ, and has been called to participate in God's kingdom.
5 So, with a question, «the Lord replied: Who then is the faithful and prudent administrator that the Lord will appoint over his household, in order to provide them their portion of food at the proper time? Happy is the servant that his Lord finds doing so at his arrival. I assure you that he will set him over all his estate» (Luke 12:41..44).
Let us now consider of the first part of the sentence: «Τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν ὁ πιστὸς οἰκονόµος ὁ φρόνιµος?», (Tis ara estin ho pistos oikonomos ho fronimos…?), where οἰκονόµος, (oikonómos) means administrator, treasurer, superintendent or manager; πιστὸς (pistós) means trustworthy, loyal, a person you can count on; and φρόνιµος (frónimos) smeans wise, discerning, thoughtful, awake.
This question posed by Jesus was the answer to that of Peter, because the fact of being prepared and of persisting in the faith, remaining trustworthy and wise, depends on the will of who has been called for the task; to be appointed does not guarantee a lasting fidelity to the received responsibility. One example is that of Judas Iscariot. Judas was a righteous man when Jesus appointed him apostle, but he later lost his privilege and his life.
6 Which is today the answer to Jesus’ question?
The words of Jesus remind his disciples of all times, the need to remain faithful and prudent, suggesting also that the servants receiving their portion of spiritual food via the appointed administrator, belong to the small flock.
After the day of Pentecost, the little flock known in Scripture as the new spiritual Israel, was generated by the holy spirit of God. Who was then the appointed administrator for the distribution of spiritual food?
Scripture says that on this same day and after the speech of Peter, «those who heeded his words were baptized, and in that day some three thousand people became associated to them (to the disciples of Jesus). All of them listened carefully the teachings of the apostles...» (Acts 2:41...42)
So this assignment was not exercised by a single person but by a group initially constituted by the apostles, to which were later associated other members, as Philip, who was sent by an angel to an Ethiopian proselyte who had traveled to Jerusalem to worship; a eunuch or high-ranking official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.
In the book of Acts we read: «An angel of Yahuh spoke to Philip to say: “Get up and go south on the road of the moor that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza”». Philip did so and saw the man, who «sitting in his carriage, returned to his homeland reading the scroll of prophet Isaiah. The spirit said to Philip, “Go, come to the carriage”. Philip went near it, and hearing that he was reading the scroll of Isaiah, asked him: “Do you understand the things you are reading?” He replied, “How can I understand it if no one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him... Then turning to Philip, the eunuch said: “Tell me please, about whom does the prophet says this? Does he says it of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, declared him the good news concerning Jesus. Going on the road, they came to a place where there was a stretch of water, and the eunuch said, “Here is the water, what can prevent me from being baptized?”» (Acts 8:26...36).
7 Some years later, two other disciples from the congregation in Antioquia were added to the faithful and wise administrator. Luke writes: «while they publicly served Yahúh and fasted, the holy spirit said: “take out Barnaby and Saulus for the task that I have assigned them”» (Acts 13:2).
Saulus of Tarsus, later called Paul, received his assignment from Jesus himself, as he stated writing: «the same who gave the power to Peter as apostle for the circumcised, has given me the power as apostle for the nations». (Galatians 2:8) He, as a faithful administrator, committed his life to distribute the required spiritual nourishment to those who accepted the good news of God’s kingdom.
On his letter to the Thessalonians we find an excellent example of how Paul and his collaborators who like him, belonged to the body of Christ, exerted faithfully and wisely their task. He writes: «Our preaching is not based on error, dishonesty or deception, and since God has considered we are worthy of trusting us His good news, we preach them, not to please men, but to please the God that examines our hearts. God is our witness that we never used flattering words, or deceit inspired by greed, and that we never sought the glory from men, neither from you or from others, even if as emissaries of Christ, we have the authority to be considered important persons. Instead, we have been with you like a loving mother that feeds and cares for her children; besides, due to the tenderness that we felt for you, we would have wanted to give you not only the good news of God, but also our lives, so much was the love that we felt for you. Brethren, you certainly remember our weariness and our concern while we preached the good news of God to you, working day and night, so as not to be for you a burden. You are witnesses together with God, of the rectitude, the justice and the integrity of our behavior with you who have believed. Remember too that we were for each one of you like a father for his children, exhorting and comforting you, and urging you to live a life worthy of the God who called you to His kingdom and His glory» (1Tessalonians 2:3...12).
8 Other disciples were also associated to Paul for the distribution of spiritual nourishment. His letters to the congregations reveal the names of some of them, since he writes: «Paul, Sylvan and Timothy, to the congregation of the Thessalonians...» (1Thessalonians 1:1 and 2Thessalonians 1:1). Timothy partook this assignment, as Paul’s says when he writes him: «You, my son, make yourself always more convincing, use the gift received through Jesus Christ, and transmit the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, to trustworthy persons (πιστοῖς, pistois) who are qualified to teach them to others» (2Timothy 2:1...2). And also states that he, Apollos and Cephas served as administrators, when he writes: «consider us as men, as assistants of Christ and administrators of the divine revelations. Now, what is required of the administrators (οἰκονόµοις, oikonòmois), is that each one of them be found trustworthy (πιστὸς, pistòs)» (1Corinthians 4:1…2).
9 When through the question that opens this article, Jesus mentions the faithful administrator to his disciples, he suggests something more, he prophetically reveals that some would exert faithlessly and imprudently the received assignment, for he says: «But if that servant says in his heart, “My master’s return is delayed”, and starts hitting the other menservants and maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the lord of that servant will come on a day that he does not expect and in a moment he doesn’t know, and will punish him severely, assigning him a destination with the unbelievers». (Luke 12:45...46)
In keeping with this, when in 55, Paul writes from Macedonia his second letter to the Corinthians, says that the unfaithful administrator was already working secretly, and writes: «These are false apostles, fraudulent operators who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ, and this is not amazing for also Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, it is not then surprising that his ministers disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. However their end shall be according to their works». (2Corinthians 11:13...15)
When Paul admonished the disciples who lived in Corinth, said: «when someone comes and preaches you another Jesus, one different from that which we have preached to you, or when it comes to receive a different spirit from the one you received and a different good news from that you accepted, you listen with pleasure». (2Corinthians 11:4) Besides, he writes to Timothy: «The Spirit expressly says that in the final times (of the true apostolic congregation) some shall depart from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, being led astray by the hypocrisy of the impostors (the unfaithful administrator) who have cauterized their own conscience». (1Timothy 4:1...2) «The time comes when they will no longer endure sound doctrine, and according to their own desires, they will surround themselves of teachers, to hear what pleases them. They will no longer listen to the truth and will turn to false stories». (2 Timothy 4:3...4) «If anyone teaches something different and does not obey with respectful fear the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, is arrogant and does not understand anything, because he concentrates in discussions of controversial arguments and in the interpretations of words, which give birth to hatred, rivalry, slander, evil suspicions, and violent disputes among people of a corrupt mind and deprived of the truth, who consider spirituality as a means for personal gain». (1Timothy 6:3...5)
11 This administrator included by Paul among the corrupted minded people deprived of the truth, became master and guide of those who, as Paul said, did not bear the sound apostolic teaching. In 51, the apostle warns the disciples about the danger of paying attention to its assumptions and deductions, and writes: «Brethren, in regard to the presence of our Lord Jesus and of our gathering with him, do not let yourselves be easily mislead or disturbed, by discourses or by statements allegedly inspired, or by any letter that pretends to be ours, which states that the day of Yahuh is imminent». (2Thessalonians 2:1...2)
However, at the death of the apostles, the unfaithful servant went much further, voluntarily ignoring the principle established for the congregation by Paul and Apollos, «the principle of not going beyond what is written, so that no one feels superior to others». (1Corinthians 4:6) The discussions of controversial arguments and the interpretations of words grew among the disciples, dividing them in many sects. Some three centuries later, the unfaithful servant took control of a divided Christianity, and unifying several interpretations in a flawed doctrine, gave birth to the apostasy foretold by Jesus and his apostles.
12 Paul had foretold this event when he wrote: «Do not let yourselves be deceived by anyone, because it (the Day of Yahuh) cannot come before the apostasy, before the manifestation of the man of sin, the son of doom, the opponent that exalts himself over anything considered divine or object of reverence, and who taking a seat in a divine place, flaunts divinity. Don't you remember that when I was with you, I spoke about these things? You know well what now holds him back, so that he be manifested only at the set time. Because this unknown offender is already at work, but as soon as that which withholds him is withdrawn, will reveal the offender that the Lord, at the time of the manifestation of his presence, shall sentence to destruction and annihilate. This one presents himself through the power of Satan, with powerful signs and deceitful wonders, to seduce through injustice those who perish, which are those who have not loved the truth, to be saved. Therefore, God sends them a spirit of confusion, that they may believe falsehood and be all judged because they disbelieved the truth, feeling pleasure in unrighteousness». (2Thessalonians 2:3...12)
13 Shortly after the apostles’ death, the genuine apostolic congregation ceased to exist. Approximately in 64, Peter said to the disciples: «Since everything is coming to an end, pray and be prudent and vigilant». (1 Peter 4:7) And also John, who survived the other apostles and saw the divisions among the disciples, announced in 98: «Dear children, this is the last hour. For as you have heard that the antichrist must come, many antichrists have now appeared, and by this we know that it is the last hour. They have arisen from among us but they are not of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but it had to be noticeable that not all are of us». (1John 2:18...19)
When John states “many antichrists have now appeared”, reveals that at the end of the first century, the apostolic sound doctrine was already being distorted by interpretations that distorted and deprived of sense the genuine doctrine, particularly, through the diverse hypotheses regarding the personality of Jesus.
John was the last of those who blocked the progress of apostasy, and who with absolute authority, belied the “antichrist” and his preaching of «another Jesus», one who was different from that preached by his apostles.
14 The many antichrists gave origin to dozens of sects in sharp contrast with each other, which survived until the ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. This council, desired and sponsored by Emperor Constantine, who wanted to unify his empire through the religious unification, empowered the unfaithful administrator, which established in Christianity a polluted doctrine. These facts fully complied Paul's prediction, who had said: «Do not let yourselves be deceived by anyone, because it (the Day of Yahuh) cannot come before the apostasy, before the manifestation of the man of sin». (2Tesalonicenses 2:3...4)
This religious union, achieved through violence and death, and sustained with great rigidity, broke in with progression of the centuries. Since then the divisions have increased beyond measure, as shown on the following scheme.
Each denomination in Christianity claims to be the true church of Christ, but if we examine its theological doctrine through Scripture, we find that in one way or another, the Jesus they preach is different of that preached by the apostles, and also the good news contrast with what his disciples taught. (2 Corinthians 11:4) We can then ask ourselves where is union in thought, love and belief, that Jesus indicated as a sign of his true congregation when he said: «I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they might be perfect in unity, and the world may know that you have sent me». (John 17:22...23)
The unity in Christ ceased to exist when the apostolic congregation of God, the only approved by Him, came to an end soon after the first century, as foretold by Jesus through the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24...30), but also by John, who wrote: «Dear children, this is the last hour…». However, Jesus had also foretold that «the gates of Hades (or grave) shall not prevail against it». (Matthew 16:18)
The gates of death will not lock it forever, because as Jesus told John, he holds «the key of death and of Hades», (Revelation 1:18) and on his return, he «will send his angels... and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other». (Matthew 24:31)
16 What happened with the faithful and wise steward, and with his assignment?
Although the disciples who constituted the administrator of genuine spiritual nourishment, faithfully completed their task in the late first century, the spiritual food distributed by them still sustains those who seek it. However, when Jesus describes to his apostles the signs of His return, declares: «Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing…» (Matthew 24:45...47), so mentions a servant who would then, supply the genuine spiritual food.
In fact, many have tried to impersonate this faithful and wise servant, particularly from the second half of the nineteenth century. But what these alleged servants have distributed and are still spreading, is it really an excellent spiritual nourishment, sincerely faithful to all the truths found in Scripture?
17 In fact, no. It is true that some have rejected certain spurious doctrines, introduced by the apostasy in the early centuries, but on the other hand, to hold their own hypotheses, tend to isolate some verses from the context in order to handle its meaning, and do not realize that, as Solomon says, «Dead flies make the perfumer's balm stinking» (Ecclesiastes 10:1), just as any falsehood, though insignificant, does on the doctrine revealed through God's spirit. By adding human commandments to the teaching of the spirit, they follow the path of the ancient Pharisees, to whom Jesus said: «with this you make void the commandment of God because of your tradition. Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying: “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, because they teach commands of men as doctrines». (Matthew 15:6...9) Instead of promoting a heartfelt obedience to the principles proposed in Scripture, they integrate in their teaching, as the Pharisees did, dozens of rules and mandates derived from their own judgments and reflections, and so they make disciples for their sect, group or society, but not for Christ.
Besides, ignoring that Paul says: «prophecies shall pass, tongues shall cease, and revelations, finish» (1Corinthians 13:8), declaring that the gifts bestowed by God’s spirit in the first century should come to an end, some of them pretend to have gifts of speaking in tongues or of healing, and even of prophecy. As a result, some dare to unwisely forecast alleged dates of the presence of Christ, or of the end of this world, that once proved to be wrong wrong, are pathetically delayed again and again, disregarding the words of Jesus, who declared: «of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father». (Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32) «So be watchful, because you don't know on what day your Lord will come... also for this reason you must be ready, because at the time you do not expect, the Son of Man arrives». (Matthew 24:42, 44) And warning the disciples who would then, be waiting for him, said: «if someone says to you, “Look, here is Christ”, or “he is there”, believe it not. Because there shall arise false christs (false anointed), and false prophets, who will perform great signs and wonders, to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have foretold it to you! So if anyone says to you: “he is in the desert”, do not go out, or “he is in the inner rooms” (invisible presences) do not believe it». (Matthew 24:23...26)
18 How to recognize in our time the food of the faithful and wise servant?
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus does not use the term οἰκονόμος (oikonomos) or administrator, as Luke does, but the word δοῦλος (doulos), which literally means servant. However, the two traits of this this servant are those of the fathful and prudent administrator; πιστὸς (pistós) or faithful, trustworthy, and φρόνιμος (frònimos) or prudent, wise. These qualities ensure that the spiritual nourishment distributed by him, does not come from mutable personal interpretations, but from a thorough investigation of Scripture, that never goes beyond what is written, avoiding irresponsible statements that would only bring discredit.
Like in the first century, his information is intended for those who sincerely want to follow the path indicated by Jesus to his disciples, who «shrewd like serpents and harmless like pigeons» (Matthew 10:16), should always keep in mind these words of John, «Beloved, do not put faith in those who declare themselves inspired, but put them to proof, in order to understand whether their inspiration comes from God, because in the world have arisen many false prophets». (1John 4:1)
In the effort of cultivating a fair and objective attitude, it is essential to put to proof what we believe, and also, to be willing to make the necessary changes to harmonize our spiritual life with the will of our God Yahuh, for this reason, we must apply to ourselves Paul's advice, who told the disciples: « Inspect yourselves if you are in the faith (in the true apostolic teaching). Put yourselves to proof or you will not be aware of that Jesus Christ is with you, unless you are disapproved, » (2Corinthians 13:5).