One of the things I have noticed the last few years is that here in the Bible Belt of the U.S. more and more pastors are using creativity and imagination in their sermons. Not in the good way, which might be creative illustrations and new innovative methods of delivering the Gospel message. No, the creativity we have been flooded with is in how these pastors interpret and teach Scripture. Case in point – Proverbs 29:18
Where there is no vision, the people perish…
From Rick Warren to the pastor down the street, this is how Proverbs 29:18 is often quoted. The message is almost always the same; the people need vision or they will not thrive and live up to their potential. They won’t live up to their purpose. This interpretation is then joined with the practical application that we are to “dream big” and pursue the dreams that God has laid on our heart. Each and every local church is to keep in sight its’ own unique and individual vision in order to fulfill its’ purpose, and every individual member should be doing the same. This is the overwhelmingly popular message we hear from modern pastors. But there’s a problem with this message – this is only half of the verse. I cut it in half here because that’s how I always hear it preached. Let’s take another look at it, and this time with all the words found in a reliable translation. Actually, let’s look at two translations:
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. – Prov 29:18 (KJV)
Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. – Prov 29:18 (NKJV)
Uh-oh! Do you see the problem once we look at the entire verse in context using good translations? It doesn’t say anything at all like what our modern pastors teach! Folks like Rick Warren want to push their own teachings and so they cut them out of context. This is just one trick used in order to allow their incredibly creative and innovative messages. But these creative messages focusing us on ourselves and our dreams don’t come from Scripture. Let’s look at what this verse is really saying: The second half of the verse explains the first half. What is it that people are to see or heed through revelation or divine guidance)? The law of God! If folks don’t understand the law, they run wild and are not confronted with their sin. The sin they so happily embrace brings misery and death as an Earthly consequence and damnation as an eternal consequence. We know from Romans chapter 3 that the purpose of the law is to show us our guilt and need of a savior, so it’s no stretch at all to see here that without the law people embrace sin and death, but with the law in sight they are confronted with their guilt and are driven to the Cross.
Do you see the difference in looking at a complete verse in a trustworthy translation and interpreting it using Scripture as opposed to the new creative methods of preaching? One way points us to ourselves and our own pleasure, the other way points us to the reality that we are lost without Christ. It is the difference between man-centered and Christ-centered preaching. Ironically, this verse states that without sight and of the law, or God’s Word, the people run wild. Isn’t that exactly what we are seeing from the modern generation of pastors? They ignore the written Word, put in their own feel-good messages, and the visible Christian church is running wild and heading straight for misery and death. The Church is without vision, and the people are perishing.
Rick Warren tweeted this verse on June 22, 2012. He has used it to preach the “big dream” sermon at multiple venues, including John Piper’s Desiring God conference. This has also been likewise misused by practically all of the famous purpose-driven pastors & speakers currently on the landscape, including Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Ed Young Jr., Beth Moore, and others (what about your pastor?)