An Unbecoming Necklace Psalm 73:6

Pride is as a chain about their neck.—Psa_73:6.

Who doesn’t love to wear a chain? Certainly none of the girls here would deny that a necklace was something to be proud of; and as for the boys—I expect few of them would refuse the gift of a watch-chain if it were offered them. The truth is, we all love chains whether we confess it or not. There is not a nation or tribe on the face of the globe that doesn’t know about necklaces. The savage in the South African wilds has his necklace of beads, and the Lord Mayor of London has his chain of office. The native princes of India have their magnificent strings of pearls and other precious jewels, and so has our own Queen.

As for making a necklace!—any little girl here will tell me it is the nicest kind of fancy-work she
knows. Think of the joy of choosing out and stringing together all those lovely colored beads, red and blue, green and gold! There’s nothing to beat it—is there?—except perhaps making a string of melon seeds. That is even nicer, because you make it from the very beginning. You beg the seeds from mother when she cuts the melon, you wash them and dry them carefully in the sun, and then, when they are ready, you bore a little hole in each and string them one by one. You can make necklaces out of almost anything. The tiny shells on the seashore make a most lovely necklace if you are careful not to break them when you are piercing the hole for the thread.

The chain or necklace we are going to speak of this morning is one which I hope none of you will ever try to wear, for it is the necklace of pride. That sounds like an odd kind of necklace, doesn’t it? But the man who wrote this psalm knew what he was talking about. He was thinking of the people who are so proud of themselves or their prosperity that they are haughty and lofty. They hold their heads so high that they look down on everyone else. They are “eaten up with conceit,” as we put it. They are not only proud, they are proud of their pride. They wear it like a necklace round their neck.
Now pride is a necklace which no one need covet, for the people who wear it must count on a good many drawbacks.

1. The first drawback they must count on is that people who wear the necklace of pride go through the world without friends and without love. They are always lonely. The conceited boy or girl has no real friends. They may have toadies, who make up to them because they have money or are clever, but you could not call contemptible creatures like toadies friends. Conceited people have to content themselves with their own society, for nobody wants to be friendly with them.

If that is the case, then the proud people will have to live without love. That is an awful punishment— isn’t it?—all because they persist in wearing a special kind of necklace. Yes, it is awful, but it is only too true. You know how difficult it is even to like conceited people. As for loving them! You never can get near enough to them to love them. They don’t invite love. Their necklace is like a sign hung round their necks, which says, “Touch me if you dare! I’m much superior to a poor little object like you.” And we poor little objects take our love elsewhere.

2. The second drawback is that proud people are not really happy. They may look very self-satisfied on the outside, but at heart they are often exceedingly miserable. They are always remembering how superior they are, and they are terrified lest they give themselves away. Then if they are not noticed and admired and bowed down to, if people don’t pay them as much attention as they think they are entitled to, they are most unhappy.

They don’t know even the happiness of gratitude. They take everything as their due. Instead of being grateful for kindness, they count it a kindness to other people to allow them to serve their majesties. So they never know that lovely warm glow of gratitude which makes you want to hug the person who is being kind to you, or at any rate to show somehow how grateful you feel.

And they don’t know the still cozier feeling inside that comes from having helped someone else. The proud person is always selfish. You see he couldn’t possibly stoop to do a kindness. The stooping would break the invisible poker which he carries up his back, and it would bow the head he holds so high, and it would let the necklace slip off his neck, and of course that would never, never do.

3. The third drawback is that the people who wear this necklace make themselves ridiculous. It is the very last thing they want to do, but it is the only thing they succeed in doing. Their pride seems to take away their common sense, and that other most important sense—the sense of the ridiculous. They do not realize how silly their words and actions make them appear. They are like the American lady who had millions of money and wanted to let everybody know how frightfully rich she was. She bought jewels galore—bracelets, and necklets, and rings—and she wore as many as she could at a time. But that did not satisfy her; so she went to her dentist and she persuaded him to bore little holes in her front teeth, and she got diamonds set in the little holes so that every time she smiled she showed a flash of diamonds.

After seeing the horrible consequences of wearing a necklace of pride we shall none of us be very keen on wearing one, shall we? But there is no reason why we should not wear a really beautiful necklace in its place— a necklace each stone of which is a glistening pearl, a necklace called humility. Boys and girls, that is a necklace worth wearing. It is a necklace more valuable than any gold chain in the world. It is a necklace not only beautiful in itself, it makes its wearer beautiful. Strangely enough it is a necklace all really great people wear. It is only the would-be great who wear the necklace of pride. Let me tell you a story of one of the world’s heroes who wore the necklace of humility.

This story comes from Gaza, that city in Palestine of which we all heard lately. Many years ago now, a clergyman who lived in Gaza was coming home in the evening. In the dusk he saw what looked like a man kneeling on the ground beside his horse. It was a dangerous thing for any traveler to be out alone in the dusk, for the Arabs might attack him; so the clergyman walked forward to warn the stranger of his peril. But as he drew near he stopped, for the man was praying aloud, and this is what he was saying, “O my God, take me away out of myself, lest I fall; make me to look unto Thee that I may humble myself and be like Thee.” The clergyman did not like to interrupt but he felt bound to warn the man, so he said, “I beg your pardon, sir, but you are in danger here.” The man rose, and what was the clergyman’s surprise to see that he was face to face with General Gordon. “What are you doing in this dangerous place?” stammered the clergyman. “Oh,” replied the General, “this morning I received a telegram from England asking me to undertake a mission which I had longed to undertake all my life. I felt so uplifted that I feared I might get into trouble through pride, and I thought I would just get upon my horse and go away by myself to humble myself before God.” That was the savior of the Soudan, the man who died shortly after at Khartoum, but whose fame will live for ever.

Boys and girls, if we are ever tempted to adorn ourselves with the horrible necklace of pride, let us resolve that we shall tear it from our neck and wear instead the necklace which Christ Himself wore when upon earth, the priceless necklace of humility.