Does your church have a “vision” statement? Maybe you even have a personal vision statement, purpose statement, or mission statement for your own life. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it directly reflects God’s vision and purpose for your church or your life.
Unfortunately, some of us have developed these “vision” statements to communicate our own hopes, dreams, and goals. And sadly, sometimes we recite Proverbs 29:18 to back up this practice. You’ve probably heard the KJV version of Proverbs 29:18.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18, KJV
Sadly, Proverbs 29:18 falls near the top of almost every list of Bible verses that are misunderstood, abused, or taken out of context. As we humans so often do, we look at it from our perspective instead of God’s perspective. We want to be the one with “vision.” We want to pursue our big hopes and dreams.
So, let’s take a look at the original meaning of Proverbs 29:18 to discover how we should understand and apply it. Considering the meaning of a few of the Hebrew words from this verse will help:
- Vision (English word used in the King James Version) – means “to see with the eyes, either physically or spiritually.” Here, given the context, the spiritual is obviously meant. Therefore, “vision” in Proverbs 29:18 refers to a “revelation, oracle, or prophecy.” In other words, “divine communication.” It originates with God and is given to mankind through His prophets or the Bible. We “see” it and “understand.” This “vision” does not originate with us.
- People – Refers to “people or nation.” This verse does not necessarily speak to individuals but groups of people joined in some kind of relationship like a nation.
- Perish – Means “undisciplined, let go of all restraint, run wild.”
- Keepeth – Means to “observe” or “give heed.”
- Law – Generally “teaching, doctrine, direction, or instruction.” It can also refer specifically to the Law of Moses (Torah).
- Happy – Means “happiness, blessedness.”
Properly understood, Proverbs 29:18 gives us very wise advice indeed. Those who don’t observe God’s revelation live undisciplined, unrestrained lives and suffer the consequences. But those who live by God’s Word will experience His blessing.
The New Living Translation reflects the correct meaning in modern language:
“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.” Proverbs 29:18, NLT
Is His vision our vision? Or are we operating under a vision of our own making? Our spiritual and eternal well being – as individuals yes, but certainly as communities and nations – depends on our obedience to God’s Word. When we scoff at or turn away from His divine law we suffer the results of our unrestrained living. But when we keep and observe His Word, our obedience will be “blessed.” (Side note: that doesn’t necessarily mean physical prosperity. God’s presence and His spiritual, eternal blessings are far greater!)
So, what is your “vision?” What is the “vision” of your family, community, nation? What results of that “vision” do you see around you?