A Lifesaving Vision

Never Stop Declaring God’s Truth

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
—John Adams1

All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
—Noah Webster2

Proverbs 29:18 is a widely known passage of Scripture; but unfortunately, it frequently is misinterpreted and misunderstood.3 In the cultural climate of our day, it is critical for believers to be aware of just what Solomon meant—and ultimately, what God means—in this verse.

In the King James Version of the Bible, Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The connotations that words like vision and perish convey to the modern ear and the cultural context of modern American Christianity may lead many to believe the first portion of this verse means something like this: “Without a noble and lofty goal, people flounder; they do not reach their fullest and brightest potential.” Consequently, this verse often has been used as a biblical foundation writing a church vision statement.4 Church vision statements certainly are helpful, but here Solomon isn’t speaking of goals, ideals, or vision statements.

The latter part of the verse, “…he that keepeth the law, happy is he,” supplies a strong hint about the meanings of vision and perish. Consider the following.

  • The Hebrew word translated vision refers to a revelation or proclamation of God’s truth.5
  • The word rendered perish means “to be loosened, or to display a lack of restraint.”6

Thus, the New King James Version actually offers us a much more accurate translation: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.” With this clearer understanding, we are reminded of another principle that appears twice in the Book of Proverbs: “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).

We do not have to look far to see evidence of the truth of Proverbs 29:18. We saw the positive side of this principle playing out on election day, November 3, 2015, in Houston, Texas. By a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent, Houston voters rejected HERO—the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Had it become law, this proposal

would have banned discrimination against transgender people, allowing, for example, men who “perceive” themselves as women to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms and other gender-specific facilities in the city.

Anyone opposing or obstructing them could have been fined $5,000.7

Passing HERO had become a cherished goal for Annise Parker, Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, and she and her administration worked diligently—and even unethically—to make it law. Pastors, however, were among a coalition of concerned citizens who sought to give the people the opportunity to vote. At one point in the months-long process, five pastors were even targeted with subpoenas. You can read the complete story here and here. The bottom line is that a clear moral declaration from church leaders helped the city avoid a policy that would have engendered moral chaos.

This is not to say that our nation needs moral guidance only; surely it needs the good news of Jesus Christ more than anything else. Yet we must understand that it is the gospel and its corresponding principles of moral and ethical truth that compel pastors and Christians to speak out when God’s truth is met with skepticism or rejection. The gospel is connected to calls to repentance and righteousness (see Mark 1:4). Moreover, a cultural atmosphere in which righteousness can flourish is foundational to the liberty and freedom Americans have enjoyed over the years of their nation’s history. Our Founding Fathers understood these connections.

While Houston’s rejection of the bathroom bill is cause for celebration, we must be aware that these kinds of battles are on the increase. In fact, the Obama Administration is trying to force an Illinois school district to open the girls’ locker room facilities to a male who is saying he’s really a female.8 Think about that! Our federal government is promoting a policy that would permit males to invade women’s restrooms and locker facilities! This effort stands in direct opposition to the task God has assigned to governments. It is no coincidence that one report on the conflict in Illinois bears a title that begins with the words “Complete Anarchy.”9 Remember that a failure to declare God’s truth leads to a lack of societal restraint.

Some say that pastors must avoid political issues. The gospel, however, addresses every area of life, including public policy. Pastors should not be prevented from sharing biblical convictions of any kind openly and freely with their congregations. Accordingly, Alliance Defending Freedom sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an event in which pastors are encouraged to speak the whole counsel of God’s Word, even as it relates to politics and public policy.10 A parallel effort called the National Black Robe Regiment also is making its mark on America.11

Why are such efforts worthy of our support? Because we affirm the truth of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.”

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.