“The Best of Things”

“Be joyful in hope.” –Romans 12:12a

In the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, prisoner Andy Dufresne demonstrates the power of hope.  Wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife, his hope that the truth would one day come out sustains him. When the truth finally does come out, but a corrupt warden refuses to acknowledge it, Andy refuses to give up.  He acts on his hope by chiseling an escape route a tiny bit at a time—for twenty years!  Twenty years of chiseling. Twenty years of hoping.  Twenty years of doing a little each day to achieve what he was hoping for.

I thought about The Shawshank Redemption while reading yet another story about our low savings rate along with the usual lecture about our need to save more.  Maybe we don’t need another lecture.  Maybe we need more hope.

Our culture seems intent on discouraging saving.  “Buy Now!” the marketers scream, with the implication that whatever they’re selling will fulfill our hope for happiness.  So we buy.  But the happiness is short-lived, so we buy again, and our savings stay stuck in neutral.  It feels more like a scene out of Groundhog Day. Our best hope for breaking out of the rut is, well, hope!

The Bible casts hope in an unusual light.  It’s not a wishing or wondering sort of hope.  It’s a certain hope; it’s the assurance of salvation that comes about by God’s grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8).  And that’s a motivating hope.  We serve not because we think we should, but because we want to as a response to God’s grace. While it’s a big comedown to shift the conversation from the hope of heaven to the hope of savings, the same principle applies.  A well-placed hope motivates us to act.

No one hopes to have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a savings account.  That’s a conversation stopper.  But some people know that a rainy day fund brings about some measure of peace of mind, and that motivates them to save.  No one hopes to put a higher percentage of his or her salary into a 401(k) plan.  That feels like duty or obligation.  But some people have a dream for their later years, and that motivates them to save.

At one point in The Shawshank Redemption, Andy says, “Hope is a good thing; maybe the best of things.”  I agree, as long as we pay attention to what it is we’re hoping for. We’ll get better at saving when we get better at hoping.  What are you hoping for?

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