October 30, 2006

God and Vilfredo Pareto

In 1906, economist Vilfredo Pareto identified that 80% of Italian wealth was held by 20% of the population. Others over the last century have seen similar trends; Joseph Juran, one of the fathers of quality management, coined the more common form, even if the wrong name stuck to it.

The "Pareto Principle" states that 80% of problems come from 20% of causes. In other words, if a company receives 100 complaints, 80 of them will stem from only the top 20% of the list of issues that cause complaints. Juran also called this the "vital few and trivial many" rule.

So what does this have to do with God? Well, everything has to do with God, ultimately. I've been thinking lately about sin and forgiveness, and its yet one more thing that fits the Pareto Principle. There are many day-to-day moments, precious opportunities to love others and spread our faith in small ways, but rare are those "big moments" where faith and love are truly tested.

So God follows the Pareto Principle? No, just the opposite. As all truths do, this principle models something that predates it, something that comes from God.

How many more of those “vital few” defining moments will we have? We do not know when Jesus will return – overall or for a single one of us. While at times, we may be in the presence of angels without knowing it, we are always in the presence of Christ. When the next vital moment comes, when we can help or ignore another person’s need, it will be Christ we help or ignore. Can we afford to miss the next chance to contribute – one of those 20% moments that makes up 80% of our worth for heaven?

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