Paraphrasing scripture into modern English has been done extensively, but, somehow Proverbs 18 cries out for a fresh modern paraphrase, so here goes:
If someone is not friendly and treats you rudely, more than likely that person is out for personal gain and does not care about others. These people lack sound judgment because they do not care how their actions appear to others. They never evaluate their relationships with a view to correction. In fact, because of their blindness of how others see them, they could possibly be fools.
Here’s how you can tell if people are fools: they take a lot of pleasure in articulating their own opinions without facts or experience to back them up. They do this with no sensitivity at all. If they stay on this path of no self-examination, you can be sure wickedness will follow and good people will ultimately hold them in contempt. They will be disgraced and their shame will come too late for correction. The awareness of their folly will cut them deeply, since there is no way to go back and undo or unsay what they have done or said.
The fool’s opinions can be compared to people who wade out too far into an unfamiliar lake, expecting the water to stay shallow, but when the drop-off comes, they suddenly discover that they can’t swim. In other words, they very quickly come to the end of their own knowledge and find that they can’t fake it any longer. Wise people, on the other hand, are like a bubbling brook, sending out a constant stream of well-founded talk, not too deep and not too shallow; their words ring true. Their honesty attracts followers.
It is easy for the fool to gain favor with many, because of fine words that please the ear. But ultimately, those words deprive the innocent of justice. Strong justice that will inevitably come upon fools involves strife and defeat. These people’s mouths are their worst enemy, especially when they themselves begin to believe their own lies.
It is one thing to report and quite another to gossip. Just as fools like to make their words sweet, the words of a reporter who is a mere gossip are like spoiled gourmet food, they go to the hearer’s inmost parts and do damage.
Moreover, a lazy person who depends on the labor of others is the same as someone who destroys.
Even in the midst of fools (gossips and lazy people depending on those in high places and those who trust in riches) good people have a sanctuary: the authority of God. That authority is like a strong tower of safety.
In that tower of safety, good people learn these things: never answer before listening. If your spirit is healthy, your body will respond. Good people try to be wise. Generosity returns favor. Those who cannot agree should not confront each other. Don’t hang onto any insult—let it go. What we say has eternal consequences—be careful. Marriage is good, because God intended it. No matter how many friends you have, your truest friend is the Lord.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.