From Jim O'Brien
September 13, 2019

Law of the Vital Few

Hi Friend,

Are there people vital to the survival of the human race?

In 1906 an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, was fascinated by a statistic that 20 percent of the people in Italy owned 80 percent of the land. Further surveys showed the same principle existed in other countries. Coincidentally, he noticed while working his garden that 20 percent of the pea pods contained 80 percent of the peas. These and further musings led him to speculate that there was a natural law of productivity revolving around the 80/20 rule.

A common rule of thumb for business is that 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of customers. Iams dog food company years ago realized the converse of that rule. Eighty percent of their problems were generated by twenty percent of the customers. So the owner made the unprecedented decision to "fire 20 percent of his customers"-you read that right-he fired the problem customers. He could then focus his attention on good customers after which the company experienced unprecedented growth.

As it happens, this is a biblical principle. Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2)

So it comes as no surprise that systems analysts now believe that wealth distribution and Pareto's 80/20 Rule are a natural phenomenon. For example, how does a supplier know how much stock to have on hand to meet demands? Pareto's principle has become the management Bible to solve that problem.

Doctors know that the gestation period of a baby is comprised of 20 percent embryonic stage and 80 percent in fetal development.

The list is endless. In America, 20 percent of patients use 80 percent of the health care resources; 80 percent of the crimes in America are committed by 20 percent of the criminals; 80 percent of sales are produced by 20 percent of salesmen. Even in nature, brush-fires and earthquakes follow a similar mathematical pattern.

Recently the historian J. Rufus Fears made an astounding statement that changed my concept of freedom. He said, "freedom is not a universal value." Consider the implications of that statement. Doesn't every man desire to be free? Why did America fight the Revolutionary War-the Civil War? Why did mothers send their sons off to die on the battlefield if not for freedom? Maybe America is unique among nations.

The undeniable truth is that dictators could not exist without the consent of the people they govern. Religious despots could not succeed without the contributions of those who are willing to be slaves.

Is it possible that the 80/20 Rule is a natural phenomenon that applies to freedom? Is it possible that 80 percent of the population of any given country is prone to slavery? Some historians have suggested such.

In the early days of Christianity a group of Pharisees came down from Jerusalem, the headquarters of the 1st Century Church, to see what the Apostle Paul was doing. They had heard of his maverick ways and they felt it was their duty to reign in this apostate before he wrecked the church.

Paul went toe to toe with them. He referred to them as "false brothers [who have] infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." (Gal. 2:4) That's not the kind of talk one would expect one Christian to say about another. Paul did not even consider such men brothers.

What strong words-"make us slaves"-one can almost see the veins stand out on his neck. He goes on; "We did not give in to them for a moment...." (verse 5) Good for Paul. He was one of the 20 percent.

Pharisees wanted to enslave the people. But Jesus had taught, "A slave has no lasting place in the family." (John 8:35) Paul's statement in Galatians 5:1 follows on this theme, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Jesus told the people on another occasion that times would eventually become so bad that no one could survive except that He would intervene. What will cause Christ to intervene to save the world? "But because of God's chosen people, he has shortened it." (Mark 13:20)

Maybe those "chosen" people are part of the 20 percent who refuse to be enslaved because of their genuine love of freedom in Christ! Whoever they are-they are the vital few to whom the world owes its existence.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien