I loved maths at school. Numbers have always figured highly in my life – being an accountant, that was quite handy! I pulled myself up a few years ago when I suddenly realised that I spent so much time counting – it came to the crunch when I noticed that I was doing stupid things like counting how many steps I had taken when I was walking somewhere! (Those of you who know me will now be thinking, “I always knew he was nuts!”)

I have stopped counting as much now – when you get to my age it helps, especially when birthdays come round!

Numbers can still be fascinating,though, and they figure in Deuteronomy 28. There are 68 verses in the chapter. The first 14 are blessings for obedience, the second 54 verses are curses for disobedience.

It is Pareto’s Principle, commonly known as the 80/20 Rule. You can often see it at work in organisations, for instance, where 20% of the members do 80% of the work. It seems to apply in so many things in life.

And here it is in Deuteronomy 28 ~

  • Curses 80%
  • Blessings 20%

The problem is, though, that we tend to go for quantity. We concentrate on “more”. If there is more of something, then it must be more important. We ignore the few. But the 80/20 rule, when it was first being spotted and formulated, was summarised as “the vital few and the trivial many”, and that is important to remember, especially in this passage.

Firstly, we might read all the curses and get so overwhelmed with a feeling of doom that we think there is no point in going on. God is a cruel God, a hard master, I am not good enough to avoid that. I’m for the high jump.

Secondly, we might read it and as we go through the curses we might feel relief that we are not bad. I am basically a good guy. I’m not bad, so I am not going to get that, suffer that, lose that. That’s for bad people.

ball of knotted stringEither way we are missing out. Either way we are too busy looking at the negative side, at the “nots”. We get tied in knots with the nots. We forget about the vital few and the trivial many. We forget about the good stuff, the blessings. We forget about the promises of the blessings in verses 1 to 14.

Verses 1-14 are the vital few. If we fully obey God and carefully keep all his commands, we will be blessed. If we fully obey God and keep all his commands, we can forget verses 15-68, because they will not apply, they are the irrelevant, trivial many.

Don’t get tied up in nots! Concentrate on the vital few.

It’s back to being perfect again.