During our last Scoutmaster Minute, I gave a homework assignment – I asked the scouts to consider the following questions:
- What is honor?
- What does it mean to pledge based upon your honor?
- What are the consequences of losing your honor?
Tonight I would like to spend a little time examining “honor” and what it means when we pledge to follow the scout oath and law based on our honor.
These three simple words, “on my honor”, basically mean “to give my personal promise”. If I say it, I need to mean it and I need to do it. When I consistently follow through on this promise, I build or establish my integrity or “trustworthiness”.
If I repeatedly fail to keep this promise, I will shred my reputation by showing everyone that their trust may have been misplaced or unwarranted.
Of course, I may make a mistake from time to time, but I’m going to do my best to protect my honor and try to live consistently from day-to-day; therefore, I will learn from my mistakes and try to improve my inner understanding and outward behavior.
Honor is credited to people who are fair, dependable and trustworthy in their dealings with others. It is the sum of the evaluation of our daily actions.
What does the Bible say about God’s evaluation of our daily actions? A lot! The most important messages deal with our rebellion against God – our disobedience, our willingness to trade our honor for dishonor:
- Romans 5:12 (New American Standard Bible) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned [Adam’s sin was the first break of integrity, his dishonor affected all mankind]
- Romans 3:23-28 (New American Standard Bible) “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded by what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. [We can’t earn justification through what we do or say; however, we can, by faith alone be justified through Christ who, being more than honorable was able to pay the price to save us from our own dishonorable/sinful condition].
- Romans 6:1-18 (NASB) “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
Elsewhere in the Bible, there are references to God searching, testing or evaluating men’s hearts and actions. In these references the word “integrity” addresses the issue of consistent intent, purity and action especially in light of tests, stress and anxiety (we could also say we remain “unbending” or “morally straight” in the presence of temptations to “bend the rules” and do what’s easy, but we’ll cover that later in our study of the Scout Oath).
- 1 Chronicles 29:17 “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”
- Job 2:3 “Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
Honor also comes from consistency in actions regardless of who receives our attention – an honorable man doesn’t play favorites or change his action based on how others may view him. It would be easy to behave differently around friends (co-workers) than our parents (children) or pastor, but that’s not consistent. God sees our heart, hears our words and sees our works 100% of the time no matter where we go. Consider what the Pharisees said about Jesus:
- Matthew 22:16 – “They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”
- Mark 12:14 – “They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
The concept of honor also applies to paying respect to others since they’ve earned that respect by their effort, or by virtue of appointed position. Consider the fifth commandment:
- Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
- Deuteronomy 5:16 – “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
In this case, sons should pay respect to his parents. Why? First, because God says so (and that should be enough), but secondly, because they’ve earned it through their support in ways that sons won’t remember until they raise children of their own (i.e. diaper duty, sleepless nights, panic moments when toddlers get out of sight, etc.) A smart son would also notice that it is the first commandment that comes with a promise from God. Honoring your parents with sincerity and love will result in a good outcome – do we honor them to selfishly “get” the outcome? No. We do it out of respect, obedience and love. If we’re sincere, then the outcome will naturally appear from living properly.
Honor takes time to build – you don’t just wake up one day with publicly recognizable honor. We all start with small tasks and responsibilities and grow into larger ones when we demonstrate that we are capable (through skills) and trustworthy (in delivering a result or getting help when things do not go according to plan). Within the troop, new scouts don’t start as patrol leaders: they don’t have the skills (yet) and the troop needs to develop trust in their character. Boys who are consistent in developing honor are promoted; those who are consistent in their foolishness (not playfulness, but behavior best characterized as the opposite of wise behavior) will be passed over as adult leaders try to guide him to wisdom from folly.
Along these lines, it’s important to teach our children that it’s easy to lose honor through bad choices, and difficult to regain the honor/trust once it has been lost. Adam lost his honor and much more when he ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Additionally, Adam didn’t only lose his honor, but honor was lost for his generational descendents, too. Because of Christ’s “substitutionary atonement” humanity has the opportunity to be recognized by God as an adopted son (Rom 8:15-17; 1 Pet 2:24; 1Pet 3:18; 1 Cor 15:22). God reaches out to us with a plan to deal with our sinful condition.
In our daily life of working with other people, it’s very important to behave consistently: learning wisdom, exercising discipline, and promptly, humbly seeking forgiveness when we do err against other people.
- Proverbs 3:35 – The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame.
- Proverbs 13:18 – He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.
- Proverbs 20:3 – It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
- Proverbs 21:21 – He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.
- Proverbs 22:4 – Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.
- Ecclesiastes 10:1 – As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
Scouts should be reminded that when offered correction and discipline (i.e. constructive guidance, counseling or correction for inappropriate behavior) that it is being done to teach, to coach and to remind them about preserving their honor:
- Proverbs 1:7-9 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
- Proverbs 8:10-11 – Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
- Proverbs 13:1 – A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.
- Proverbs 13:13- He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.
- Proverbs 16:20- Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
- Proverbs 16:21- The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.
- Proverbs19:20- Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.
- Proverbs19:27- Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
- Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
- 2 Timothy 4:2 – Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Along the path of life, honorable people might also be called “good folks” or “decent”. I’ve often heard non-Christians talk about people in this manner. We should be careful to remind our sons that mankind was created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), but later fell through sin. No amount of proper living can restore our “pre-fall status” with God.
Honorable living is desirable, but not a way to “earn” our way to heaven. Only God’s grace, belief in Jesus’ spilt blood on the cross and resurrection from the grave can save our souls from eternal damnation. Once redeemed from eternal damnation, we do have a responsibility to live our life obediently:
- Acts 4:9-12 – If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
- Romans 5 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Romans 6:1-18 (NASB) – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Three little words that mean a whole lot. “On my honor” carries a lot of responsibility unless you don’t really mean what you’re saying. If that’s the case, you need to think about what it means to be a scout and how you want to live the rest of your life. You have to make that choice every morning when you get out of bed – will you be trustworthy, a man of honor, someone who might occasionally make a mistake, or will you be the sort of person who no one trusts for very long since you don’t follow through with your promises? What does God expect of us? How about an employer? How about employees that you manage? How about your own family? Do your best to guard your honor — be a person who says what he means and does what he says.