Monday, June 22, 2009

Vision Out of Context

Proverbs 29:18 could be the verse of the Bible that is taken out of contest more than any other. This is especially true of Christian businessmen. Consider the reference Mike Hyatt made to it in 6 Steps to More Courage. What he says about it is fairly typical of how businessmen reference it or how some pastors reference it. We want our people to understand the importance of having a vision and following through, so we quote this great Bible verse that seems to say just that. “Where there is no vision, the people parish.” If you want to survive, you have to have vision and the courage to follow through, right? Yes, to a point, but in the words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

First, most people leave off the second half of Proverbs 29:18. The whole verse says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” When you read a verse like this, you need to realize that the first half and the second half are matched pairs. In this case, they are direct opposites. The second half helps us to understand what the first half means and vice versa.

Vision here isn’t as pedestrian as the results a leader believes his organization should achieve. Vision is used to translate the same word that is used to refer to the visions of the prophets. We would not be wrong in restating the verse as “Where there is no Word from the Lord, the people parish.” The second half of the verse then makes more sense. The Law is a Word from the Lord.

Proverbs 29:18 only applies to vision as we frequently apply it when a leader has fallen on his face before the Lord and earnestly desired a Word from the Lord, showing him how he should go. If the vision isn’t from the Lord, then we having a vision and the courage to follow may be worse than having no vision at all. But when the Lord has given us direction, courage isn’t just courage it is faith.

The leaders we need in businesses, the leaders we need in churches, are men and women who refuse to move forward until they have a Word from the Lord—a vision—but when they receive it, they move forward in faith, knowing that the Lord will do just as he promised. We don’t need need men who can create great visions, but men who receive great visions. We need faithful men who keep the Law of the Lord.