The Fable of the Four Philanthropists
Once upon a time, there was a small town besieged by war. Invading marauders eventually captured the land, built a prison in middle of the town square, and imprisoned all the warrior men of the community. And every day citizens would see their sons and fathers suffering behind bars in the middle of the town square. Unable to bear it any longer, 4 philanthropists got together and decided to make an offering of peace.
The first philanthropist went to the jailer and said that he had a lot of money and couldn't stand to see the prisoners without fresh water. He begged for mercy so that he could spend all his money to buy fresh water for the prisoners to drink. The invaders allowed it and the philanthropist felt at peace with his offering.
The second philanthropist went to the jailer and said he had a lot of livestock and couldn't stand to see the prisoners sleeping on rocks and dirt. He begged the jailer to be allowed to use his sheep and animal skins to make beds and pillows for the prisoners. The invaders allowed this gift and the philanthropist felt at peace.
The third philanthropist went to the jailer and said he had a very large farm and he couldn't stand to see prisoners eating so poorly that many were malnourished. He begged the jailer to be allowed to bring all his food from the farm and make meals for the prisoners. The invaders allowed this gift and the philanthropist felt at peace.
The fourth philanthropist had neither farm, nor livestock, nor money. He was very poor. But he was a saint. So for his gift he did what any saint would do: he stole the jailer's keys, snuck back to the jail at night, and released all the prisoners. And he felt at peace with this offering.
Reflect on the difference between mercy and justice.