“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Pr.29:18; KJV)
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Pr.14:12; NASB)
There are many words used to capture the concept that relates to the mental construct a human being establishes as an operating grid for viewing and approaching life. The Scripture above speaks of vision. Among others, we might use the words perception, mind-set, understanding, value system, etc. The central issue, however, involves the mental perspective with which one approaches the details of life. The formation of this perspective is often taken for granted and within a relatively broad spectrum of acceptable modes, we can function as societies or corporate groups (family, church, business, team, political party, etc.) within society, navigating basic differences and conflicts in a relatively healthy and fruitful manner. Yet, it is often the case that individuals, and sometimes groups (cults or terrorist organizations), can develop a perspective that, when accepted as an operating grid, produces erratic, unhealthy and dangerous behavior patterns.
The opening passages of Scripture (Pr.29:18 & Pr.14:12) address two aspects of this concept.
First, when there is no vision, there is no pattern, direction or goal that provides order, structure and standards by which decisions are made and conduct is developed. In such a scenario, people are without restraint and such lack of restraint leads to an approach by which people “perish.” When looking at Strong’s definition of “perish” (paw-rah’ – translated “unrestrained” in the NASB) we see it is a “primitive root; to loosen; by implication to expose, dismiss; figuratively absolve, begin:– avenge, avoid, bare, go back, let, (make) naked, set at nought, perish, refuse, uncover.” No vision sets the stage for things to simply come unraveled and fall apart. This passage, however, does not address the idea that it is possible to have a wrong vision, an unhealthy vision or view of life.
The second consideration speaks of having a vision (“way”) that seems right but, according to the proverb, is not right. This, very bluntly, leads to death. Depending on the scenario in which this is playing out, it could be the death of a marriage, a business, a church, a person, a piece of machinery, a nation, etc.
That which is of interest is, how does a person formulate the perspective with which he or she approaches life? What is it that goes into the construction of a value system whereby we convince ourselves (which is different from being convinced or “forced” by others) to use our time, energy, talents and capabilities the way we do? This is a very broad question, which seems to get caught in the parallel mirror syndrome but there must be a healthy starting point. The starting point does not guarantee that subsequent challenges will be faced the same way by all people beginning with a common starting point. However, such a beginning is crucial if there is any hope of being healthy individuals and societies.
There are many influences that contribute to the formulation of a person’s mental perception of value. If we think of this perception as a “value system” we realize that this involves balancing the value of many things or placing them in a basic order of value. First, it is important to recognize the significance of the word influence. Though we possess certain abilities and capacities that are characteristic of human reality, the possession of such abilities does not cause the formation of character nor does it cause the formation of our value system. We are exposed to many things, from the laws written on our hearts to cultural or familiar norms and taboos. As young people in the process of development, such things influence us as we use our natural capacities to develop perspective. We draw a conclusion, right of wrong, about our personal value / worth; the value and / or reality of God, marriage, family, church, human life, plant life, animal life, education, physical conditioning, etc. Consider, for example, that some campaign vehemently against the mistreatment of whales or trees while supporting the practice of the abortion of human babies. There are people who arrive at a perspective by which they choose to terminate their own physical existence by committing suicide. There are others who choose to terminate someone else’s physical existence. There are people who practice anorexia, cutting, manipulation, alcohol and drug abuse, tattooing, piercing, on and on ad nauseam. All such practices speak of the value system a person has developed and established. We can develop this thinking further by considering a person who smokes cigarettes. The practical declaration in such cases is that they value smoking more than they value the health of their lungs. Further, if a person’s spouse expresses that they oppose this practice, and they refuse to apply themselves to quit, it is a practical declaration that they value sucking the smoke from a burning plant into their lungs and blowing it back out more than they value pleasing their spouse.
Bringing this rambling batch of pontification to a resolve (as far as this particular post is concerned) I suggest that we can anticipate no resolve without putting the appropriate foundation in place upon which a stable value system can find support. There are numerous passages of Scripture that address the issue of a proper value foundation. A most fundamental perspective appears in two parabolic statements made by Jesus.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt.13:44-46)
Here, He reveals 1) the basic principle that people will go after and sacrifice for that which they perceive as valuable and 2) the only proper point of ultimate value should be “the kingdom of heaven” or the kingdom of God as the terms are used interchangeably in the Gospels. All else is expendable and subject to God and His kingdom as the foundation of any proper value system that is to be constructed thereafter. I will post future articles exploring the ramifications of building on this perspective. For now, consider the following passages in this light.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.” (Ps.127:1)
“…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt.6:21)
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Mt.10:37)
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Mt.7:24)
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt.6:33)
The sad reality is that even within the company of professing Christians, it is potentially the case that doctrine, “church,” denomination, self-pleasure or preference and / or a number of other things can actually have more practical value in our value system, leading to using God, in contrast to loving God.