I wasn’t a Boy Scout. I was a Cub Scout and I achieved the marvelous feet of earning my bobcat badge and finishing 2nd in a Pinewood Derby in a car helmed by a Smurf (not because I had some kind of identity crisis as a Smurf fan, but because I needed him for weight). But even though I wasn’t a Scout I know that the accomplishment of Shawn Goldsmith of Long Island is nothing short of remarkable. Goldsmith earned all 121 merit badges recognized by Boy Scouts of America.

To give you an idea of what kind of accomplishment this is, some of the merit badges include:

American Business, Archaeology, Automotive maintenance, Aviation, Basketry, Bugling, Cinematography, Dentistry, Fingerprinting, Golf, Nuclear Science, Plumbing, Sculpture, and Veterinary medicine.

The requirements for earning each merit badge vary, but consider archaeology for example. Goldsmith was required to:

  1. Tell what archaeology is and explain how it differs from anthropology, geology, paleontology, and history.
  2. Describe each of the following steps of the archaeological process: site location, site excavation, artifact identification and examination, interpretation, preservation, and information sharing.
  3. Describe at least two ways in which archaeologists determine the age of sites, structures, or artifacts. Explain what relative dating is
  4. Do TWO of the following:
    1. Learn about three archaeological sites located outside the United States.
    2. Learn about three archaeological sites located within the United States.
    3. Visit an archaeological site and learn about it.
  5. Choose ONE of the sites  you  completed for Requirement 4  and give a short presentation about your findings to a Cub Scout pack, your Scout troop, your school class, or another group.
  6. Do the following:
    1. Explain why it is important to protect archaeological sites.
    2. Explain what people should do if they think they have found an artifact.
    3. Describe the ways in which you can be a protector of the past.
  7. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Make a list of items you would include in a time capsule. Discuss with your merit badge counselor what archaeologists a thousand years from now might learn from the contents of your capsule about you and the culture in which you live.
    2. Make a list of the trash your family throws out during one week. Discuss with your counselor what archaeologists finding that trash a thousand years from now might learn from it about you and your family.
  8. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, spend at least eight hours helping to excavate an archaeological site.
    2. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, spend at least eight hours in an archaeological laboratory helping to prepare artifacts for analysis, storage, or display.
    3. If you are unable to work in the field or in a laboratory under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, you may substitute a mock dig. To find out how to make a mock dig, talk with a professional archaeologist, trained avocational archaeologist, museum school instructor, junior high or high school science teacher, adviser from a local archaeology society, or other qualified instructor. Plan what you will bury in your artificial site to show use of your “site” during two time periods.
  9. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist or instructor, do ONE of the following:
    1. Help prepare an archaeological exhibit for display in a museum, visitor center, school, or other public area.
    2. Use the methods of experimental archaeology to re-create an item or to practice a skill  from the past. Write a brief report explaining the experiment and its results.
  10. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Research American Indians who live or once lived in your area. Find out about traditional lifeways, dwellings, clothing styles, arts and crafts, and methods of food gathering, preparation, and storage. Describe what you would expect to find at an archaeological site for these people.
    2. Research settlers or soldiers who were in your area at least one hundred years ago. Find out about the houses or forts, ways of life, clothing styles, arts and crafts, and dietary habits of the early settlers, farmers, ranchers, soldiers, or townspeople who once lived in the area where your community now stands. Describe what you would expect to find at an archaeological site for these people.
  11. Identify three career opportunities in archaeology. Pick one and explain how to prepare for such a career. Discuss with your counselor what education and training are required, and explain why this profession might interest you.

All of this for just one of 121 cloth badges. What if Christians demonstrated the same kind of discipline, diligent pursuit of and devotion to Jesus Christ? I don’t ask the question to minimize or diminish Goldsmith’s accomplishment, but in the grand scheme of things, this kid worked his tail off for 121 cloth badges and a photo splashed on the FoxNews home page (among other media outlets). His motivation may not have been 15 minutes of fame. It may have been much more noble than that. I don’t want to speculate about his motivation. And his accomplishment is worthy of earthly recognition, but in reality his accomplishment will not earn him distinction or merit in the eyes of God, unless of course Goldsmith pursued each and every badge for the glory of God (1Cor 10:31). If they are his boast, they are worthless. If this is the legacy of Shawn Goldsmith’s life, is it a legacy worthy of his life? Which leads us to the question: What merit badges are we pursuing in life that demand more time, energy and devotion than we give to the One who created us?  

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