Where There Is No Vision

Blind fold

As a preacher, I have a pet peeve about misusing biblical passages to prove an argument. When you read into a text, it’s called eisegesis. Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text.[1] Heresies are created doing such a thing. Using the hermeneutic (science of interruption texts or scriptures) principles of using the original language a text is taken from, reading the surrounding texts (the verses before and after), knowing to whom a passage is written to, and knowing the history and culture will help prevent such things from happening.

In my opinion, Proverbs 29:18 (Where there is no vision, the people perish.) is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. I’ve heard this passage used for anything from building campaigns to vision statement training. You can’t read a church’s website without seeing this passage used in their “Vision Statement” section. Bill Hybels maintains that without the vision of Proverbs 29:18 people “can’t focus, can’t reach their goal, can’t follow their dream…. I’ve seen it with my own eyes—without vision, people lose the vitality that makes them feel alive” (Courageous Leadership [2002], 31).[2] The passage deals with more than just vision; it deals with living according to God’s revelation.

Reading Proverbs 29:18 in the King James Version of the Bible, this passage seems to be talking about having a vision for a planned out future; the idea being if we don’t have a plan for success, we’ll fail or even perish.[3] Knowing the cultural-historical context of this passage will help properly apply this passage along with doing a word study on the word that had created the confusion. The word used in the KJV that had led to not understand this verse is “vision.” The word “vision” is actually revelation; the divine revelation of God that has come down to us from heaven.[4] The Living Bible paraphrases this verse as, “Where there is ignorance of God, the people run wild, but what a wonderful thing it is for a nation to know and keep His laws!” An old English version based on the Latin Vulgate has this passage saying, “When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered.”[5] The revelation from God will ground our every step and understanding to keep use from being lost and scattered.

Proverbs 29:18 provides hope, encouragement, and support to the modern reader because when God’s Word is fixed in our hearts, it enables us to sort right from wrong and enables us to practice restraint where it is limited or missing.[6] When the Bible is rightly understood and applied, it has a way of protecting us, setting a moral compass for us, and restraining us from patterns of sin. It teaches us right from wrong and helps us to become discerning in our search to please God in all things.[7]



[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 42.

[2] Bob McCabe, “A Re-“vision” of Proverbs 29:18,” bibleStudyTools.com, March 26, 2013. http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/theologically-driven/a-re-vision-of-proverbs-29-18.html

[3] Eric J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses of the Bible. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2012), 148.

[4] Ibid, 150.

[5] Ritenbaugh, John W., “Proverbs 29:18,” bibletools.org, accessed April 22, 2014. http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Bible.show/sVerseID/17243/eVerseID/17243

[6] Eric J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses of the Bible. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2012), 151.

[7] Ibid, 153.

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