When I was working as a management consultant, one of my favorite lessons to convey to clients was the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80-20 Rule. The principle was named for the 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that an 80-20 percent relationship applied to many practical aspects of life. For instance, about 80 percent of nonprofit donations come from 20 percent of the donor base. About 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of your client base.
The application of the 80-20 Rule I most like is that about 80 percent of the work on a project is accomplished through 20 percent of the effort. For example, if it takes five hours to detail a car, you can finish 80 percent of the job in about an hour. The remaining 20 percent of the tasks will take four hours to complete. The lesson learned is that if you can accept something less than perfection in a practical task like vacuuming your house or maintaining your lawn, you can save yourself a lot of time and significantly simplify your life.
The Rev. Dr. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), was a popular Scottish theologian in his day. His biographer, G.F. Barbour tells an interesting story about Whyte’s encounter with a particular female parishioner who told him, “Dr. Whyte, I just love being in your presence. You are so saintly.” Whyte replied, “Madam, if you could look into my soul, what you would see would make you spit in my face.”
While the Pareto Principle has many practical applications in everyday life, Rev. White knew that when it comes to God, giving an 80 percent of yourself is not enough. Whyte understood what Jesus means in Matthew 10:37-39 when he says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (ESV)
Jesus wants all of you—not 80 or 90 or even 99 percent of you. He makes this clear when He tells his disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, ESV)
It’s easy to give part of yourself to God. You can attend church every Sunday, pray to Him every morning, and tithe 10 percent of your income. Outwardly you might appear saintly, as the Rev. Whyte appeared to his parishioner, but God sees inside us all. Scottish Theologian Oswald Chambers said, “We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation. What God looks at is what we are in the dark—the imaginations of our minds, the thoughts of our heart, the habits of our bodies; these are the things that mark us in God’s sight.” This is why, St. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12 (ESV), “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
God wants all of you. Therefore endeavor constantly to place Him first in every aspect of your life. And when you fail, as you inevitably will, seek His forgiveness. As St. Paul encourages us in 2 Timothy 4:7, continue to fight the good fight.