Without Vision, We All Perish

When we are faced with an aphorism from Proverbs, it is wise to listen and learn. An aphorism is a succinct statement explaining a principle of conventional wisdom. When one like this is presented to us, understanding what it means can be life-changing. Here are three translations of Proverbs 29:18:


New International Version

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.


King James Version

Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keeps the law, happy is he.


English Standard Version

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.


A similar message is found in Psalms 119:1-2

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.


This verse, Proverbs 29:18, is often quoted as an encouragement to an organization’s need to create a vision statement. While it is true that we need vision statements to help clarify where we are going, this verse has a different focus.


The principle suggested here is that when we stay connected to God’s word, our future is secure, and our present is enhanced. On the other hand, when we are separated from Him, our future is miserable and our present unrewarding. How does this perspective play out in our modern day western world? And is there anything unique to our day or culture for us to learn?


God has a vision for each of our lives. When asked, “Does God have a plan for your life?” the majority of people will answer in the affirmative. Does He have a plan for yours? According to the Bible, he does!


Plans are, by their very nature, forward facing. Plans have application today and a pathway into the future. There is a lot of conversation today about the importance of having a vision for our nation whether it is our economy, our international trade, or for the United States as a whole. It is important to understand how God intersects those conversations with wisdom, guidance, principles, and priorities. The Proverbs aphorism suggests that if we follow His direction, using His principles and listening for His plan, our future will be bright. 


One area where this admonition plays out is in how we understand retirement. In our times, retirement means the last 30 years of life-extending, for many, well into their 90s. When asked what they will do during retirement, the majority of responders are perplexed and respond with some version of “nothing." Some responses include bucket list activities or other undertakings designed to satisfy personal longings.


Without a vision of God’s plan for your life, a contemporary version of perishing is on the horizon. When you plan for nothing, odds are you will be successful in reaching it. With an understanding of God’s vision and engaging with His principles, the retirement years can have meaning and purpose and you will be blessed.


Blessed has multiple shades of meaning. Jesus spoke of being “blessed” and how to receive blessings during his Sermon on the Mount. Here, the eight blessings, or positive results, outline how we are to participate in building and experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven. These are found in Matthew 5:1-12.


Jesus’ message on the Beatitudes is one of loving your neighbor, helping your neighbor, and reflecting Jesus teachings in all you do. This message is far from the narcissistic proclamations we are bombarded with in our current culture and the picture of the “good life” portrayed in ads for 55+ communities. There is nothing wrong with 55+ communities in themselves unless the self-absorbed priorities become a consistent lifestyle.


Activities that bring blessing are those that are “other” focused. A friend recently shared the outline of his father’s life. Until age 65 he had meaning and purpose in his job and church/community activities. He was happy. Then he retired. There were sufficient resources to support the next 20+ years. However, he lost his sense of purpose and never found the one available to him. He was miserable for the last 20 years of his life. Doing nothing was terrible.


The challenge for all of us approaching or even those in their retirement year is to seek God’s vision and respond to His call. Reach outside of ourselves and find what will bring blessing to others, satisfaction to our souls, and contribute to building God’s kingdom here on earth.


Without vision, we will surely perish. We have a choice. Let’s follow the admonition of Proverbs 29:18. Let’s understand and build our lives, as long as they last, on those 8 beatitudes.


Stay with us as we journey together finding those blessings so readily available.




"Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Blessed are they who mourn,

for they shall be comforted.


Blessed are the meek,

for they shall inherit the earth.


Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be satisfied.


Blessed are the merciful,

for they shall obtain mercy.


Blessed are the pure of heart,

for they shall see God.


Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they shall be called children of God.


Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

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