The Boy Scout Oath

I have been involved with the Boy Scouts since I joined Cub Scouts in 1969. At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, we recited the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, once said, “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity” – (Scouting & Christianity, 1917). When asked where religion came into Scouting, Baden-Powell replied, “It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting…” (Religion and the Boy Scout and Girl Guides Movement–an address, 1926).

This is the continuation of the series of blogs examining the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.

The Boy Scout Oath

On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

The Scout Oath is the foundational statement of the values of the Boy Scouts of America. Every activity, rank advancement, skill, and value in Scouting points toward the Scout Oath. Although the Scout Oath is not a Christian statement, per se, it was designed and built upon Biblical values.

On my honor…

Honor is a matter of integrity and respect. When a person says, “On my honor…,” they are putting their integrity on the line. The trust, respect, and value that others hold them in is at stake. The Bible talks about integrity and honor:

Proverbs 10:9 – He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.

Proverbs 20:7 – The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.

Titus 2:6-8Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

1 Kings 3:13 – And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.

1 Timothy 5:17 – Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.

…I will do my best…

In the Bible, God always expects the best from His people:

Acts 24:16

16 I always do my best to have a clear conscience toward God and men.

In the Old Testament sacrificial system, God always required the best portion of whatever was being sacrificed (see Numbers 18:25-32, for example). Failure to give the best resulted in God rejecting the sacrifice (see Genesis 4:3-5).

…to do my duty to God and my country…

Throughout the Bible, duty to God is a key theme. Duty to God involves not only our behavior, but also our hearts and minds.

Duty to our country is also taught in the Bible:

Romans 13:1-31 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

1 Peter 2:13-1713 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

Matthew 22:21 – …And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The order of “God” and “country” is significant. When there is a conflict in loyalties, both Scouts and Christians are to hold loyalty to God above loyalty to country.

The phrase, “duty to God,” has been a source of controversy for the Boy Scouts. Because of this phrase, official Boy Scout policy has been to deny membership to atheists, because an atheist cannot perform duty to a god he does not believe exists. Over the years, several atheists have sued the Boy Scouts over the policy, but the Scouts Oath has always been upheld by the courts. The policy has cost the Boy Scouts funding from organizations that oppose this policy, but the Scouts have chosen to uphold their principles rather than to give in for funding. I applaud the Scouts for their integrity.

…and to obey the Scout Law;…

I have written about the Scout Law elsewhere in this series on the values of Scouting and the Bible, so I won’t repeat it all here. To summarize: Although not exclusively “Christian” in nature, the 12 points of the Scout Law come directly from Biblical principles, and were designed to promote character development that is in line with Christian values.

… To help other people at all times;…

This portion of the Scout Oat is very similar to the third point in the Scout Law – A Scout is Helpful – as well as the Scout Slogan – Do a Good Turn Daily. The Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s honor society, states that one of their primary purposes is to “crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.” Since I have already written about, “A Scout is…Helpful,” I won’t repeat it here.

…To keep myself physically strong…

Taking care of one’s physical body is a major emphasis in Scouting. It is also a Biblical principle: Romans 12:1 states, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, “19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

…mentally awake…

Building the mind is a key value of both Scouting and the Bible: Romans 12:2 states, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

…and morally straight.

Having a high moral standard is a major emphasis in Scouting. Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, recognized that without the Bible, morality is meaningless. Without the absolute standard of the Bible, morality can mean anything one wants it to mean; it becomes meaningless, for all practical purposes.

The phrase, “morally straight,” has been the basis for the Boy Scouts of America policy banning membership to homosexuals. The Boy Scouts have always viewed homosexuality as an immoral choice rather than a genetic predisposition. Numerous lawsuits have been filed, and the Boy Scouts have always been vindicated. As a privately funded organization, The Boy Scouts have every right to deny membership to those who do not conform to the ideals and values it holds. As in the case of denying membership to atheists, upholding the integrity of its principles has cost that Scouts millions of dollars of support. However, maintaining the organization’s values and character is worth the cost. Christians, likewise, are called to refuse to compromise their beliefs. Both Scouts and Christians are called to set themselves apart from others by upholding higher moral standards based not on popular opinion, but on Biblical values.

As a Christian and a long-time Scout, Scout leader, and Eagle Scout, I have found that the Scout Oath is a succinct statement of many of the values I maintain as a Christian. For me, the Scout Oath is no longer just a statement recited at the beginning of Scout meetings; it’s become a habit, and a part of my Christian way of life. It’s a practical way to implement my Christian principles into my everyday life.

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A Scout is…Kind

I have been involved with Boy Scouting for most of my life.  At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, Scouts recite the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law.  Many Scouts do not realize the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.  Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, once said, “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity” – (Scouting & Christianity, 1917).

This is the continuation of the series of blogs examining the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.

A Scout is…Kind

A Scout treats others as he wants to be treated.  He knows there is strength in being gentle.  He does not harm or kill any living thing without good reason.

The sixth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is kind.” Kindness is a virtue that is repeatedly encouraged in the Bible.

Dictionary.com defines the word kind as meaning, “of a good or benevolent nature or disposition.”  Kindness involves generosity, compassion, and caring.

The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22-23, “22 but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  To the Colossians, he wrote, “12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” Colossians 3:12-13).

The Boy Scout Handbook describes being kind by saying, “A Scout treats others as he wants to be treated. “  Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  The Handbook also says that a Scout “knows there is strength in being gentle.”  Jesus Christ is quoted by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

In the Scout Oath, a Scout promises to “help other people at all times.”  The Scout slogan is, “Do a good turn daily.”  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind…”  Kindness is a virtue that is commended by God both in the life of the Scout and the Christian.

The values of Scouting were not simply created by Baden-Powell to reflect the culture of his time.  He strategically chose values that reflect the Christian life as applauded in the Bible.  I thank God that the Boy Scouts of America has continued to uphold these values, despite the pressures from the culture to compromise.  Boy Scouting continues to be a tremendously positive influence on the young men of today, because it continues to hold to the values of the Bible.

A Scout is…Courteous

The Boy Scouts of America was founded on Biblical principles.  Although it is not a “Christian” organization, the values taught through the Scout Oath and Scout Law are entirely consistent with Biblical values.

This is the continuation of the series of blogs examining the connection between the ideals of Scouting and the Bible.

A Scout is…Courteous

A Scout is polite to people of all ages and positions.   He understands that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.

The fifth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is courteous.”

Courteous means polite, respectful, or considerate in manner.  It is a character trait that commended in in the Bible.

1 Peter 3:8-9 says, “8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers”  (Ephesians 4:29).  He also wrote to Titus, “1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2).

Being courteous and respectful allows us to get along with each other.  Most people are courteous to those in positions of authority; A Scout, like a Christian, is to be courteous and respectful to all, even those that others may look down upon.   James 2:1-4 tells us,

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Courtesy and respect seem to be disappearing from today’s culture.  It seems that many more people are rude and disrespectful today than in the past.  However, both the Scout and the Christian are called to be courteous, despite what the culture around us says.

A Scout is to be courteous; the Bible teaches the Christian also to be courteous.  Courtesy and respect allow us to be at peace with those around us, and opens up opportunities for having a positive effect on the people we contact daily.

A Scout is Trustworthy

I have been involved with the Boy Scouts since I joined Cub Scouts in 1969.  At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, we recited the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.  Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, once said, “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity” – (Scouting & Christianity, 1917).  When asked where religion came into Scouting, Baden-Powell replied, “It does not come in at all. It is already there.  It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting…” (Religion and the Boy Scout and Girl Guides Movement–an address, 1926).

This is the first in a series of blogs examining the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.

A Scout is Trustworthy

A Scout tells the truth.  He is honest, and he keeps his promises.  People can depend on him.

The first point of the Scout Law, “A Scout is trustworthy,” is a value firmly rooted in the Bible.

In the Bible, when men were needed for leadership positions, trustworthiness was a key qualification.  In Exodus 18, Moses was advised by his father-in-law Jethro to “…select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.  Have them serve as judges for the people at all times…”  Nehemiah wrote, “All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites” (Nehemiah 13:12-13).

In Daniel 6:4, Daniel’s enemies could not find anything to accuse Daniel of, because they “could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”

The book of Proverbs frequently commends trustworthiness:

Proverbs 11:13 –  A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

Proverbs 12:22 – The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

Proverbs 13:17 –  A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

Proverbs 25:13 – Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Jesus also commends trustworthiness.  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).

Along with trustworthiness, honesty is extolled in the Bible:

Leviticus 19:36 –  Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.

2 Kings 12:15 – They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.

Proverbs 14:5 – An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.

Proverbs 16:11 – Honest scales and balances belong to the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making.

Proverbs 16:13 –  Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.

Acts 6:3 – Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Philippians 4:8 –  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Trustworthiness is but one of the many values shared by Christianity and the Boy Scouts.  God expects those who follow Jesus to be trustworthy and honest in their dealings with others.   Likewise, a Scout is expected to be trustworthy.  I believe that the fact that the Boy Scouts of America has continued to stand uncompromisingly on the Biblical principles upon which it was founded is the main reason Scouting has continued to flourish over the last 100 years.  I hope and pray that the organization continues to maintain these principles in the future.