At scout meetings across the USA, youth and adults typically recite the Scout Oath (and Law) during the opening ceremony. It’s a reminder of a deeply held belief that, as scouts, we are continually committing ourselves to live out specific ideals in our daily lives: helping other people, being physically strong, practicing our duties to be good citizens and more.
The Oath and Law should become increasingly meaningful as the scout grows in their understanding of what the words really mean as he (or she as a leader or Venturer) gains practical experience in dealing with other people.
The worst possible disconnect exists when a scout or scouter isn’t able to clearly articulate the meaning behind the words, or how these phrases serve him/her in their daily life. In this scenario, the recitation of the Oath and Law could become a simple, tedious, rote repetition that leads to frustration instead of growing maturity.
One of the most vital responsibilities of each unit leader is to set a solid example for the youth, and to provide instruction on the meaning and importance of scouting’s ideals (one of the key methods of scouting). This means that the adults must have a firm grasp of the meaning of the ideals and live them out as consistently as possible. The tactics available to the unit leaders range from the Scoutmaster Minute (using stories to illustrate concepts, encouraging discussions about issues, etc.) to working with the Patrol Leadership Council to incorporate appropriate service projects into the annual calendar.
Still, these activities by the unit leaders are designed to not only instruct about general concepts, but they’re designed to instill a genuine desire on the part of the youth to investigate more deeply on their own.
When it comes to learning about your duty to God, scouts have several options to pursue:
- They should discuss with their parents
- They could discuss with their faith advisor (i.e. Priest, Rabbi, Imam, Pastor, Elder, et.al.)
- They could read the religious text(s) associated with their faith practice (i.e. The Bible, Book of Mormon, Quran, The Tanakh, et.al.)
- They may even look at scholarly texts that explain their faith practice and highlight teachings about their duty to God (and others).
While scouts come from a great variety of faith backgrounds, our troop happens to have families who are Christian. For our scouts we asked them if they were comfortable with explaining what they felt their “duty to God” included in the event that someone would ask them. This was an interesting discussion and we led them back to the question “how do you know that you’re correct?” – not to embarrass them, but to get them thinking about whether they were forming opinions on their experience or whether they had received instruction or revelation on these issues.
We also asked the scouts to consider the best ways to self-study this issue of discovering their duty to God. Each scout agreed that reading the Bible would be a great place to get an authoritative response based on their shared faith practice (Christianity).
We discussed whether reading the Bible (for Christians) was actually part of our “duty to God”. Most agreed and several scouts cited some verses/accounts from the Bible that encourage Christians to read and reflect (meditate) on “The Word”, “The Law of the Lord”, “The Bible”:
- Joshua 1: 8 — This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
- Psalm 1:1-3 ESV (Our Troop Verses) — Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
- Psalm 19:7-11 ESV — The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
- Psalm 119:105 ESV — Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
- Matthew 4:4 ESV — But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
- Romans 15:4 ESV — For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV — All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
The great thing about these verses is that they don’t simply state “you should read the bible”. Instead, several offer a hope that following through and reflecting on what we read will bring prosperity, revival, wisdom, and clarity to our daily life.
Here’s a Historical Account on the Importance of Reading the Bible:
Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight (2 Kings 22). His reign followed two generations of kings who rebelled against God – they departed from doing their duty to God. Over the course of time, most copies of the book of the law were lost since people worshiped idols instead of God. When Josiah ordered that the Temple be renovated, the book of the law was found during reconstruction. Recognizing that it conveyed a message to him and his citizens from God, he ordered it read. Being shocked by learning what this text proclaimed, Josiah instituted religious reforms – he had rediscovered his duties to God by reading the word. Perhaps these texts from Deuteronomy were a part of his inspiration:
Deuteronomy 11:26-28: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God…”
Deuteronomy 6: 5-9: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
As a Christian and a scout, I think we can learn a lot about our duties to God by simply reading the Bible on a regular basis and taking time to think about what it says to us (reflect/meditate and then act). For us, the Bible provides clear direction on our duties to God and other people – all we need to do is study it, discuss it and follow its guidance (see Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23 or Luke 8:4-8 and 11-15 to illustrate why it’s important to reflect on what we read and discuss it – if we merely “speed read” the bible, we may not grasp the context of what’s being presented – careful study and consistent reading will make a difference).
So how about you?
What will you commit to do this week to increase your understanding about your duty to God? Perhaps you’re not a Christian, but wondering about your duty to God as a scout. Please don’t let your curiosity fade – talk to your family, your faith advisor and search your divine texts to keep learning about your duties to God, nation and local community. Don’t let your Scout Oath be only words – put it into action, daily, even as you continue to investigate its meaning!