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…Reverent

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.

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

A Scout is…Reverent

A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

The twelfth and final point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is reverent.”

Reverence involves showing honor and respect toward God. Of the 10 Commandments, the first three all deal with reverence toward God:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Exodus 20:3-7

Many of the Psalms are songs of reverence toward God:

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Psalm 29:1-2

Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Give to the Lord glory and strength.
Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

Psalm 96:7-9

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
Say to God,
“How awesome are Your works!
Through the greatness of Your power
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises toYour name.”

Psalm 66:1-4

Praise the Lord!Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord’s name is to be praised.

Psalm 113:1-3

Reverence not only involves showing honor and respect toward God; it also involves faithful obedience. 1 John 2:3-6 says,

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

As a Christian, I should respect the beliefs of others, even though they are wrong. 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” Respect does not mean we agree with other belief systems, but that we show respect to those who hold them.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, believed that reverence to God was the most important value in Scouting. He once said, “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity” – (Scouting & Christianity, 1917). When he was once 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).

A Scout is…Clean

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.

A Scout is…Clean

A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses friends who also live by high standards. He avoids profanity and pornography. He helps keep his home and community clean.

The eleventh point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is clean.”

Being clean isn’t just about taking regular showers. It involves a clean body, and a clean mind. It involves a clean lifestyle, clean language, and clean environment.

The phrase, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” isn’t in the Bible. But, being clean in the sense of body and mind is a Biblical principle. Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2,

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. 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.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul writes,

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?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Having a clean lifestyle is also a Biblical principle. Paul again writes in Romans 13:13-14,

Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

The book of Proverbs talks a lot about having clean speech:

Proverbs 10:31The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, But the perverse tongue will be cut out.

Proverbs 15:2The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

Proverbs 21:23Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.

Proverbs 21:6Getting treasures by a lying tongue Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

Taking care of the environment – keeping it clean – is also a Biblical principle:

Genesis 2:15 – Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

Ezekiel 34:17-18 – And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord God: … “Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?

A Scout is clean; and so is a follower of Jesus Christ. Psalm 51:7 says,

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I can stand before a holy God clean and spotless, not because I have lived a perfectly clean lifestyle, but because Jesus did. I have been “washed by the blood” of Jesus Christ; my sins have been “washed away.” I cannot be saved by clean living; but I can honor my Lord and Savior by living a clean lifestyle, having clean thoughts, and keeping His earth clean.

A Scout is…Thrifty

At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, each Scout recites the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law.  Many Scouts don’t realize the connection between the Scout Law and Oath 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…Thrifty

A Scout works to pay his own way and to help others.  He saves for the future.  He protects and conserves natural resources.  He is careful with his use of time and property.

The ninth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is thrifty.”

Thrifty living is encouraged in the Bible.  Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”  The Personal Management Merit Badge, which is required for the Eagle rank, requires the Scout to create a budget and track income and expenses for a period of time.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul writes, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  Scouts also help raise the funds for troop expenses, as well as camping trips and other activities.

Thriftiness not only applies to money, but also to natural resources.  Scouts are taught to both use and conserve the environment.  Genesis 1:28 says, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”  The Biblical principle is for mankind to take care of the earth, but also to use its resources in a thrifty manner.  Having dominion implies ownership; subduing the earth involves learning how to use it; tending and keeping involves taking care of it.

The value of thriftiness is one of the key values held by Scouts, based on Biblical values.  Baden-Powell considered Biblical values to be the key to proper living; this is why the values of Scouting were based on these principles.

A Scout is…Cheerful

At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, a Scout recites 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…Cheerful

A Scout looks for the bright side of life.   He cheerfully does tasks that come his way and tries his best to make others happy, too.

The eighth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is cheerful.”

Cheerfulness implies an optimistic, positive outlook on life that rubs off on those around us.  It doesn’t mean that a Scout is supposed to be happy that unpleasant things happen, but that he should have a positive outlook despite unfortunate circumstances.

Jesus taught His disciples to be cheerful despite their circumstances.  In John 16:33, Jesus said:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The disciples were not to be cheerful because of their tribulations, but in spite of them.  Of the eleven disciples (excluding Judas, who hanged himself), all but John died a martyr’s death.  Peter was crucified upside-down.  John died in exile on the island called Patmos.  Christians have been persecuted throughout history, and continue to be persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred today in many places.  Voice of the Martyrs is an organization that is dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians worldwide.

With all the opposition and persecution, as well as just the everyday issues we all face, what basis is there for a Christian to be cheerful?  Jesus gives us the answer:  “I have overcome the world.”  Without Jesus, there is no real hope, no real peace, and no real reason to be cheerful.  As the bumper sticker says, “Life’s a b****, and then you die.”  But, because Jesus took our sin upon Himself, died, and then rose the third day, the Christian has real hope, can know real peace, and has every reason to be cheerful, despite the garbage and hopelessness around us.  And, by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can give the hopeless world real hope, and a real reason to be cheerful.

This doesn’t mean the Christian will never be in a bad mood, or be apprehensive, or get depressed.  We all have bad days; we live in a sin-filled world, and it can be very disheartening.  Our fallen, sinful bodies can get biochemical imbalances, and we can suffer from depression or other mental illnesses.  However, despite all of these problems, Jesus declares, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The musical group Casting Crowns does a song called “”Praise You In This Storm.”  The chorus says:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

How can the Christian be cheerful in the midst of all that life throws at us?  By praising God in the midst of life’s storms.

“A Scout is…cheerful” is a value that is firmly rooted in God’s Word.  Cheerfulness is what gets us through the difficult times in life, as well as the good times.  Cheerfulness, optimism, and a positive attitude can make the difference between merely enduring difficulties and growing through them.  Cheerfulness is a trait that benefits both the Scout and the Christian.

A Scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances. ~ Baden-Powell

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.