I bumped into the Pareto Principle many years when I was a virgin credit controller: that 80% of the cash will come from 20% of the clients. Which means that 20% of the cash will come from 80% of the clients. Which means I have to figure out how to manage my time and cash collection calls. Or else I will spend 100% of my time missing my monthly targets.
Since then it seems to have become a principle for living.
80% of people will contribute a paltry 20%, whereas 20% will contribute an amazing 80%. So am I spending my time with the 80% or the 20%? Am I giving to the “20% (80% givers)” my 80% time or my 20% time – because if I am spending 80% of my time on the “80% (20% givers)” – the “20% (80% givers)” may go elsewhere.
As a tool for cash collection I think it is useful. As a guide for living I am not so sure.
It seems so “transactional”.
Mark 4:1-20 “A sower went out to sow” is all about the 80/20 rule: seed = “the word” … seed (path) birds/Satan … seed (rocky ground) yay/yawn … seed (thorns) maybe/no way … seed (good soil) yay/yay and yay again!
My favourite line? “And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”” Ears of corn … ears to listen … geddit? 🙂
I have heard two teachings.
The first was how I should disciple others/preach the news to all nations. I was to be the sower, and this was to be my landscape. The second teaching was that I am the landscape and I will waste or invest the word I hear as I live my life.
Both teachings appeal to the “investment/return” belief. The “how many have you brought me” default. I think that is deeply embedded in the Christian psyche.
The controversial “prosperity teaching” and this “teaching”, I see as being quite similar: both invest for a reward – both expect a reward if the investment is targeted and efficient – both assume the “sower” gets that reward of material wealth and/or saved souls.
And those who are rewarded “reap headlines” of celeb status – we look up to them as Great Christians! Ones who get centre stage. Ones we will travel to see. Ones who do book signings. Ones who are “names”. Because we “Good Christians” all love a great “name” (and silently hope one day that we too … ?)
I see this parable in a different way.
“The sower sows the word.” Is anything we hear, see or take notice of – anything AND everything.
First choice: what do we allow into our heads and hearts (and – perhaps more importantly – what do we keep out)?
Second choice: what do we do with what comes in (and what do we miss in keeping out)?
Are we adrenalin junkies – so over-fed on new stuff that this input is sent straight to the TrashBin with barely a glance … Do we take it to heart until the next big thing comes along (and the first thing finds the TrashBin all by itself) … Do we hold onto this thing and add it to our ever-increasing list of “stuff” – never saying no to anyone (but never noticing that “the thing” is buried so deep it is invisible) … Or do we “listen” with ears that want to hear – to discern what is important – what has value – what living is about (and then make it our own) – and be changed by “the thing”?
I have been a Good Christian. I had dreams of being a Great Christian. But today find myself more and more certain that “that” is not what this is all about. I find myself drawn to the “be changed” as something that resonates elsewhere …
The “follow me”. The “what goes in is not important but what comes out”. The “eat whatever you want but don’t force it on those who think they shouldn’t”. And then the biggie. The “make disciples of all”. Which is taught as “convert those who don’t go to church” but excludes “Good Christians” – because (it seems), by definition, Good Christians who go to church are already “disciples”.
More and more I see this stuff as personal and intimate – less and less jumping into a boat yelling “listen!” to the hoped for crowds. More and more about being me in everything – less and less about becoming a “name”. More and more about being changed – less and less about changing anyone else.
Because (leaving his jumping into a boat and shouting “listen!” aside) more and more I see the personal and intimate “being-becoming” as the only thing Jesus is (and ever was).