By Linda Tancs

In the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus likens the forgiveness of grievances to the forgiveness of debt, exhorting that one should “pay it forward” when experiencing mercy from another. The power of the parable is amply illustrated in real life by a letter sent from statesman Benjamin Franklin to an individual named Benjamin Webb in 1784. It reads:

Dear Sir,

I received yours of the 15th Instant, and the Memorial it inclosed. The account they give of your situation grieves me. I send you herewith a Bill for Ten Louis d’ors. I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your Country with a good Character, you cannot fail of getting into some Business, that will in time enable you to pay all your Debts. In that Case, when you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little. With best wishes for the success of your Memorial, and your future prosperity, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant, B. Franklin.

We often use the expression “on the hook” when someone is compromised in some way, like owing money. Who’s on your hook? Are you willing to cut bait?

 

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