One day while working in his garden, Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noticed that 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas.
He first noted the principle that 20% of our efforts produces 80% of our results, and vice versa. And the rule (which is actually not a rule at all but a useful working generalization) extends into every nook and cranny of life. You know. Twenty percent of the people do 80% of the work, 20% of the people give 80% of the money, 20% of the people accumulate 80% of the wealth, and vice versa and so on.
So here's a parable adapted from the Epilogue of Discipleship and the Man in the Mirror that I hope you will enjoy...
There was an 80/20 man who lived an 80/20 life. He was the kind of man you could always count on to give a full 80% to everything he undertook. Well, actually not always, but at least 80% of the time.
One day the 80/20 man decided he would like to become a Christian or, should we say, 80 percent of him did. For he could only bring himself to believe about 80 percent of the what the Bible says about the historical life of Jesus. You know, the virgin birth ("I mean, Come on"), the atonement for the sins of people not even born yet, the human incarnation of the unseen God ("Give me a break"). And then there is that part about rising from the dead (Pppp...lleasse!!").
But he was highly motivated (to the 80th percentile) to see his faith change his life. He secretly hoped for an 80% improvement. "That would meet 100% of my expectations," he thought to himself.
He began attending church (four out of every five Sundays--a splendid record, he thought). He thoroughly enjoyed church or, should we say, at least 80 percent of the time. When he went he stayed for the whole service (a remarkable achievement in itself), but could only bring himself to listen to about 80 percent of the sermons. He sang 80 percent of the hymns with 80% enthusiasm, and prayed 80% percent of the prayers with 4/5ths of his heart.
One day he said to his friend, "You know, I really like this Christianity stuff, at least 80 percent of it. About twenty percent of it, though, is pretty hard to swallow." He felt that way 4/5ths of the time. He added, "I believe about eighty percent of the Bible is true." The Bible carried a lot of weight with him, about 3 pounds. He was an 80/20 Christian.
But you know how the 80/20 rule works. And so his brand of Christianity relieved only 20% of his fears, removed a mere 20% of his angry outbursts, and he found just 20% of the sense of purpose and meaning for which he longed. "This is a lot of work for a little result," he thought to himself.
Eighty percent of the time he found himself in a surly mood, criticizing his wife, yelling at his kids, disagreeing with his pastor, hating his boss, angry at the hand fate had dealt him, exhausted beyond words, paralyzed with fears, anxious about the future, teetering on the brink of financial disaster, and otherwise generally frustrated with his life.
One day he was reading his Bible (which he did 20% of the time). He usually skipped over about 80% of the verses looking for something visceral, something that would invigorate his emotions. He was paying about 80% attention to the verses he was reading when, lo and behold, these razor-edged words thundered off the page, sending shivering echoes down the halls of his mind (80% of which were empty):
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which is described in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).
The 80/20 man was quite astonished... Astonished that these words were the last words of the Bible... Surprised that he had made it that far--past the first 80%. He figured the chances of that happening were even less than one in five.
If this is how God decided to summarize the Bible, then these must be very important words, indeed: Don't add to His words. Neither subtract anything away. Uh, oh.
Yes, yes, he thought. I want to share in the tree of life. I want to walk along the avenues of the holy city. I want to stand ankle deep in the river of life and feel the cool, refreshing waters swirl around my feet.
Suddenly it occurred to the 80/20 man that he was either for God or against Him. Instantly his eyes were opened and he clearly saw that 80% "in" is still "out." His body convulsed and he shrieked as a jagged, white-hot saber of pain lanced the throbbing, festered 20% of his un-yielded soul.
He fell on his knees with 100% of his weight, he cried out to God with 100% of his heart, he wept 100% of the tears within him, he repented 100% of his spiritual blindness and sin, he surrendered 100% of his life, he pledged 100% loyalty, he dedicated 100% of his time and money, he committed to seek after 100% obedience, and he submitted 100% of his being to 100% of the authority of 100% of the Bible. It was the first 100% moment of his 80% life. It was supremely beyond all he had dared ask or imagine.
When 80% of the euphoria had worn off he noticed he had only lost 20% of the glow. From deep inside he remembered a verse of hymn, "Something's happened, and now I know. He touched me. My Savior made whole."
In the days that followed he found an enigma. 80% of the time he rode the crests of the waves. But 20% of the time his circumstances seemed insurmountable, unconquerable, unsolvable. Yet, even in the midst of grueling anguish, pain, and tears he found welling up within him springs of living water, peace, and joy. Yes, he experienced the same veneer of mortal emotions he did before, but beneath that shallow facade immortal joy audibly but softly hummed like a giant, powerful turbine with unending reserves of power.
During those storms--those twenty percenters--as the tiny ship of his circumstances was buffeted to and fro by life's high seas, Robert noticed that the anchor of God's immovable, sovereign, authoritative, infallible, holy Word held him fast in the hollow between the waves as though in the very hand of the living God. And it happened 100% of the time.