You’ve probably heard that “adage” before. It’s a simple, motivational proverb, stemming others to success. In fact, it’s most well known from the 2002 film, based on a true story, “Catch Me if You Can”. The movie starred Leonardo Dicaprio, who played Frank Abignale Jr.—the young counterfeiter who stole millions of dollars from the United States government. After finally being caught, Abignale Jr. served out his sentence working for the FBI, tracking down other counterfeiters. In the film, Frank Abignale Sr., Frank’s father, used the story in a speech at an awards banquet. He also quoted it to his son, Frank Jr., on the eve of every difficulty. Ironically, even though Abignale Sr. claimed to be the second mouse, he was always the first. His life was full of financial fraud, unemployment, and struggling to make ends meet.
For the businessman and lover of the American Dream, it does motivate commitment. It sends the message that if you keep working and never, never, never give up (in the words of Winston Churchill), you still have a chance. You can walk out of your own financial grave.
For the Christian, the adage sends the wrong idea. The reason we don’t give up is because God doesn’t give up on us. Deep in the muck and mire of sin and human frailty, we can “churn the cream” with every ounce of our being, but we won’t make butter. If we believe we can “crawl out” because of our own strength and dedication, we will drown like the first mouse.
Paul describes the “bucket of cream” in this way—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). Which “mouse” are you? Be the one who points its eyes to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Then, and only then, will you survive.