The Scout Oath consists of three parts: Duty to God; Duty to Others and Duty to Self. The phrase “obey the scout law” follows “duty to country” and precedes “help other people at all times”. While the positioning of the phrase suggests that obedience to the Scout Law is mainly an issue of duty to others, it’s also a duty to self in that we develop self-respect and confidence when we follow its guidance consistently.
The Scout Law exists for several reasons:
- it gives the scout guidance on how to behave during circumstances that aren’t clearly governed by rules laid down by God or our elected government;
- it reminds the scout that our behavior affects other people; and
- it influences our growth and maturity by providing a gauge of whether we’re really “doing our best”.
The Scout Law describes a scout by his actions, choices and behavior: “A Scout IS trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” When we practice these principles – especially when we don’t really feel like it or when it’s inconvenient – we build character by disciplining ourselves to make the right choice during tough times.
By including the need to follow the Scout Law in the Oath, it also serves to remind scouts that they’re pledging their honor to behave in a proscribed manner. This principle governs behavior during our trips, outings, and meetings and sets the standard for any needed disciplinary discussions that might arise.
We’ve previously studied each of the points of the Scout Law during our troop meetings. Each point has deeper meaning and relevance to our lives than the simple face value of the word as it may be defined in the dictionary. Additionally, we have seen how each point of the Scout Law is supported in our effort to comply with our Duty to God. When working on this devotional two scripture references came to mind as general encouragement to set a good example to others.
- 1 Tim 4: 7-13 states – “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” The exhortations to be disciplined and to show ourselves as examples through speech, behavior, love, faith and purity remind me of our duty to obey the Scout Law — so that others can see that we are Boy Scouts through our actions, not just our uniform.
- Similarly, older scouts (i.e. troop leaders, committee members, scouts who’ve aged out of the youth program) could also look to Titus 2:6-8 which states; “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.”
I think that it is clear that scouts can pledge to obey the Scout Law with confidence. The 1911 Scout Handbook also provides this encouragement: “To be a real boy scout means the doing of a good turn every day with the proper motive and if this be done, the boy has a right to be classed with the great scouts that have been of such service to their country. To accomplish this a scout should observe the scout law.” I think its fair to say the same thing in reverse — if a scout follows the scout law consistently, he’ll find himself confronted with many opportunities to do a good turn daily and set an example for others.