The 80/20 Christian

Excerpted from The Rest of Your Life (Zondervan)

Remember the 80/20 rule? Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, first noted the principle that 20 percent of our efforts produces 80 percent 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 percent of the work, 20 percent of the people give 80 percent of the money, 20 percent of the people accumulate 80 percent of the wealth, and so on.

Robert 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 percent to everything he undertook. Well, actually not always, but at least 80 percent of the time.

One day this 80/20 man decided he would like to become a Christian or, should we say, 80 percent of him did. For Robert 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 (“Puh…lleezze!”).

But Robert was highly motivated (to the 80th percentile) to see his faith change his life. He secretly hoped for an 80 percent improvement. That would meet 100 percent of my expectations, he thought.

He began attending church (four out of every five Sundays – a splendid record, indeed) which he thoroughly enjoyed 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 sermon. He sang 80 percent of the hymns with 80 percent enthusiasm, and prayed 80 percent of the prayers with four-fifths of his heart.

One day Robert said to a 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 added, “I’ve decided about 80 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 the 80/20 rule has a downside as well. And so Robert’s brand of Christianity relieved only 20 percent of his fears, removed a mere 20 percent of his angry outbursts, and he found just 20 percent of the sense of purpose and meaning for which he longed. This is a lot of work for a little result, he thought.

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 percent of the time). He usually skipped over about 80 percent of the verses looking for something visceral, something that would invigorate his emotions. He was paying about 80 percent 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 percent 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 percent. 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. 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 percent “in” is still “out.” His body convulsed and he shrieked as a jagged, white-hot saber of pain lanced the throbbing, festered 20 percent of his unyielded soul.


He fell on his knees with 100 percent of his weight, he cried out to God with 100 percent of his heart, he wept 100 percent of the tears within him, he repented 100 percent of his spiritual blindness and sin, he surrendered 100 percent of his life, he pledged 100 percent loyalty, he dedicated 100 percent of his time and money, he committed to seek after 100 percent obedience, and he submitted 100 percent of his being to 100 percent of the authority of 100 percent of the Bible. It was the first 100 percent moment of his 80 percent life. It was supremely beyond all he had dared ask or imagine.

When 80 percent of the euphoria had worn off he noticed he had only lost 20 percent of the glow. From deep inside he remembered a verse of a hymn, “Something’s happened, and now I know. He touched me and made me whole.”


In the days that followed he found an enigma. Eighty percent of the time he rode the crests of the waves. But 20 percent 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 20 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 percent of the time.


Are you living an 80/20 life? Prayerfully answer the following questions…

1. What percentage of these areas have you submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Rate yourself from 0 to 100% on the following scale.

Your Time

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Money

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Future

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Worship

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Hope for Significance

0% ——————————————————– 100%

Your Faith and Trust

0% ——————————————————– 100%


2. What is the next step that you need to take to become a 100% Christian?


Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.

© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.

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