By Joe Chesser
You’ve heard the proverb at least a hundred times, maybe a thousand. You know which one I am talking about – the one that says “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). This verse has been used (and abused) by dreamers and goal setters for decades to encourage us to make plans for our future. If we don’t, they say, we are doomed to failure and frustration in life.
While I personally believe it is very important to have goals and dreams to work toward, I do not believe having goals is the message of the above proverb – at least, not the primary message.
By taking a closer look at the verse, especially by comparing the KJV translation of it to other versions, a different meaning will emerge. God’s Word translation (GW) says, “Without prophetic vision people run wild.” The NIV puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” The primary message of this verse, then, is that without guidance from God through His revelation to prophets (i.e., in visions), people will not know how to act properly, and thus will run wild, cast off restraint and perish. It’s about hearing God and following His rules for righteous living.
But it’s not totally unrelated to having the vision to set goals for what you want to accomplish and become in the future. The difference is that it’s not your vision, but God’s vision that this proverb says it’s important to have. Through hearing God’s revelation we all are to become visionaries, or perish. We have to hear from God (through His messengers) what we can become and where we can spend eternity, and then set our sights on those “visions” and work toward achieving them.
Jesus came to give us a “vision” of the Father and to provide the way and means for us to become like Him and live with Him forever (John 1:14; 14:5-9). It’s up to us to not only catch this vision ourselves, but to help others also catch it. A part of being a visionary is to help others become visionaries too. Without this “vision” we will certainly perish.
As a church, let’s be a collection of visionaries in 2009. Let’s encourage each other to have the vision of Christ before us at all times. Let’s talk about it; let’s hope for it; let’s reach for it. About visionaries, the proverb concludes, “blessed are those who follow God’s teaching” (Proverbs 29:18GW).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org