Twisted Scripture Number 40: 
Proverbs 29:18 Is Not About a Vision of Sucess

By Brannon Howse

The Scripture: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)


The Twist: A lot of godless conservatives, Republicans, and public policy people throw this verse around and say things like, “We have to have a vision for our country and lower taxes and more entrepreneurs and more free market capitalism, for where there is no vision, the people perish, or the nation perishes.”  


Have you heard Proverbs 29:18 used this way before? If so, please understand that it is a completely twisted use of the verse. 

Reviewing two other respected translations is especially helpful in grasping the real meaning of this scripture. The New American Standard Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” And the New King James Version puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.”

What does “no revelation” mean? This is really saying that where there is no adherence to God’s Word, the people do whatever is right is in their own eyes. One big problem with using this verse as a call for vision for freedom and liberty is that the word does not actually mean “vision” in the way we commonly use it. The more accurate translation is “revelation”—the revelation of God’s Word.  

The verse assumes that we study God’s Word and understand its truth because when we understand the truth of God’s Word, the people will be happy as they obey Scripture. If, however, there is no revelation, no adherence to God’s Word, the people will cast off restraint. When that happens, the consequences for any nation are disastrous. In fact, I think we are seeing just such consequences now in many nations of the world that have thrown off God and His Word. 

Ideas—and the actions they produce—have consequences, and the Bible is very specific about what a nation will reap when it rejects God. America is already experiencing the results of the ideological path it has been wandering. Lawlessness and disorder have their roots in our continually snubbing the God of the Bible. As a result, we face a number of dire consequences. As outlined below, Romans 1 delineates five specific national consequences for denying God. 


The nation that continually rejects God becomes a nation of fools. Romans 1:21-22: 


because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.


According to verse 21, people become futile, vain, and useless. Their hearts become darkened, allowing them to be seduced into accepting spiritual lies. Verse 22 points out that even though they profess to be wise, they actually become fools. This refers specifically to the extremes to which men will go in order to justify their sin and false beliefs about God. Situational ethics, moral relativism, and postmodernism are all used to justify rebellion against the character and nature of God. (And remember Psalm 14:1? It tells us that the fool says in his heart there is no God. America has denied God and the need for His existence in every area of life.) 


2. The nation that continually rejects God accepts pagan spirituality. Romans 1:25: 


who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.


Pagan spirituality centers on the worship of nature, yet its ultimate goal is to sidestep feeling guilt for anything. Our world has moved from theism to atheism to pantheism, the belief that “god is all and all is god and all is one.” In June 2008, the Denver Post reported that the number of people involved in pagan spirituality is doubling in America every 18 months.


3. The nation that continually rejects God accepts homosexuality as normal. Romans 1:26-27:


For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.


Acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle as “normal” is evidenced in our nation’s schools, television programs, movies, and even some churches. Courts throughout the nation seek to legalize same-sex marriage. A number of states have implemented “hate crimes” legislation that allow legal action against individuals for publicly sharing their objections to the homosexual lifestyle.  


4. The nation that continually rejects God becomes debased and violent. Romans 1:28:


And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.


A blatant example of our cultural debasement, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a 96 to 3 vote of the U.S. Senate in 1993 to serve as a Supreme Court justice. The bizarre worldview of this woman seemed to make no difference to the proceedings. Earlier in her career while serving as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Ginsburg wrote a paper entitled “Sex Bias in the U.S. Code,” prepared for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in April 1977. Among its perverse conclusions, the paper recommends lowering the age of consent for sexual acts to 12 years old. 

An article in U.S. News & World Report further reveals just how off-base we’ve become. In John Leo’s “No-Fault Holocaust,” he reports a remarkable observation about how college students perceive the World War II Nazi genocide: 


In 20 years of college teaching, Prof. Robert Simon has never met a student who denied that the Holocaust happened. What he sees quite often, though, is worse: students who acknowledge the fact of the Holocaust but can’t bring themselves to say that killing millions of people is wrong. Usually they deplore what the Nazis did, but their disapproval is expressed as a matter of taste or personal preference, not moral judgment. “Of course I dislike the Nazis,” one student told Simon, “but who is to say they are morally wrong?”


5. The nation that continually rejects God produces judicial, legislative and executive branches of government that approve of and encourage immorality and corruption. Romans 1:32:


who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. 


Numerous examples point to America’s judicial, legislative, and executive branches’ approval of immorality and corrupt behavior, but two court cases in particular make clear this point:  (1) 1973—The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion is protected by the right of privacy. (2) 2003—The U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Texas law that makes homosexual acts illegal. The decision struck down sodomy laws in 11 states. 


   My point in outlining these five indications of national moral failure is not that I want God to judge our nation. I fear His wrath too much for that. However, there is hope in knowing that a just Judge is in charge and that He will not wink at sin. He holds everyone accountable, which means that all have the potential to repent. We can pray God’s judgment will cause people to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ. We can also pray that His call to accountability will purify the American Church and ultimately take our country on a new road, to God’s glory and honor.

   One thing we can say for sure, a politically conservative vision is not going to be the hope for America or any nation. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. 

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