my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
My kids are in 4-H. Right now they both hold offices in their Jr 4-H chapter. Every month at the meeting they begin with this pledge. At the first National 4-H Camp in Washington, DC in 1927, the present 4-H pledge, worded first by Otis Hall, state leader in Kansas, was officially adopted. The Executive Committee of the Land-Grant College Association had requested Dr. R. A. Pearson, president of Iowa State College, and Dr. A. C. True of the Federal Extension Service to write a pledge, and they had turned in the pledge substantially as written by Hall. In 1973, the words “and my world” were added.
As I stood there and said the pledge I wondered, “Would Jesus have been in 4-H?” He probably would have shown sheep or goats and showmanship would have been perfect! Coming from a carpenter family, his skills in construction would have won something at the fair. As I recited that pledge I thought of how well each of those parts create an individual that would be honorable. As Moses was wrapping up his time as leader he spoke to Israel and his words are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. One famous line is now known as the Shema from Deuteronomy 6, “4Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
When asked what was most important about the religious law given to Israel, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”
While the words might be rearranged a little, the same sentiment is seen in the 4H pledge.
I pledge my head to clearer thinking. The Israelites were told to bind these words to their forehead. God meant that figuratively to mean that Scripture should be on your mind. Paul would later write to the Philippians, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)” Keeping your mind set on Christ generally clears things up!
I pledge my heart to greater loyalty. Loving God with all your heart means that the passions and desires of your life should be filtered through Scripture more than your friends and followers. Loyalty does not happen automatically. it takes time and attention. Loyalty is a decision. The wisest of all kings, Solomon, wrote, ‘Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck;write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:3)”
I pledge my hands to larger service. Helping other people can be seen throughout the life of Jesus. Because of Him, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the mute spoke, the sick were healed, and the hungry fed.
I pledge my health to better living. The antithesis of this is found when we are breaking the other three pledges. Even the Psalmist knew there was a certain way of living that brought health and choices that did not. The Psalmist wrote, “There is no health in my body because of Your indignation;there is no strength in my bones because of my sin. (Psalm 38:3)” If sin is simply seen as missing the mark, then it is right to think that when our head, heart, and hands are not right then our health will not either.
Would Jesus have been in 4H? I don’t know. However, I do think 4H provides opportunities that make better kids.