There’s No Such Thing As Karma, But You Can Thank God For Grace*+
You will discover, if you are paying much attention, that most people’s morality is based on personal preferences. If I prefer that this thing I like to do is not immoral, then it is not immoral… for me… or so the thinking goes. There is a name for this mindset. It’s called “relativism”. Good and evil are seen as relative to the individual. So you will hear it said that what is moral for one person may not be moral for another, and vice versa. Relativism, therefore, does two things for man. First, it works to clear his conscience concerning his sin. Second, it allows him to judge harshly anyone who would dare look at his sin in light of absolutes. But in order to actually live this way violence must be done to rational thought. We can’t on the one band say morality is relative to the individual, and then, on the other hand, hold the individual who breaks into our house and steals our TV accountable to our own personal standards. When we are the victims of evil our relativism collapses. Reality collides with us because morality is not personal, it is absolute. But few people think that deeply about their worldviews. I pray that you, dear children, would be more attentive to how you order your lives than that. There is a law, “do not steal”, and there is a law-giver who commands us not to do it.
I say all of this as a foundation from which to approach the foolishness of a word that has become popular in our modern vernacular: “Karma”. Karma is a term with its roots in Eastern religions. It is based on reincarnation. The thinking goes something like this: Suppose that you are a wealthy Hindu living in India and you notice that across town there are many horribly poor people. Karma allows you to ignore their plight by telling yourself that they are simply working off “Karma”. They are being punished for the bad deeds in a previous life. You, even though you have no recollection of your own deeds prior to your birth, now have a good life because of those supposed deeds. That is the origins of Karma anyway… somewhat.
But when you encounter the word it will be a westernized version of it. When you hear someone attribute some poor soul’s misfortune to Karma, it will generally be considered payback for something they did in this life. So if I steal your car, and I am maimed in a bad wreck while driving it to my house, someone might simply utter the word “Karma” to point out that I got what I deserved. But to attribute a thing to Karma, we need to ask ourselves some questions. First, who is administering this Karma? Is it a personal being? A force? A deity? And if we do live under the threat of payback from this entity, then where do we go to learn what is absolutely right and wrong so that we might escape its wrath?
You can see, I hope, the inconsistencies in the assumptions behind this word. First, it assumes absolutes, which is to say that it assumes that there is ultimate good and evil that apply to all people in all times, and which must be adhered to in order to escape bad things happening to us in return for our evil. There also must be an assumption of self-righteousness. By attributing a misfortune to Karma a question ought to be raised. Who among the living has lived perfectly enough to not deserve a little Karma? Can anyone believe, if something bad happens to them, that there is not one person out there somewhere in a position to gloat and attribute that misfortune to “Karma”? Has anyone lived that righteously? I sure haven’t. I shudder to think. And you can be sure that no one else has either.
But listen to me children. There is a sense in which our westernized idea of “Karma” has merit. The Bible says that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This means that we live in a world that is sinful, and with the fall of man in the Garden, it was not only sin that entered the world, bad things entered the world, lots of bad things. We have sickness, death, violence, destruction and so on, all because of man’s sinful nature. But we are not left to guess what we must do to escape God’s wrath. It’s quite simple really. It’s called the Gospel, the good news.
Karma is a concoction of man who sees himself as righteous and the final arbiter of good and evil. And know this: man never sees his own sin in the same light that he sees the sins of others. That is true for you too children, and you need to be aware of it when grace and forgiveness are in order in response to an offense. But while man tends to give himself a pass for his own evil, he is quick to see Karma as payback for others. But God is different. Jesus had this to say about our situation:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:18-20)
Jesus says that we are all deserving of “Karma”. He goes on to say that we can expect something much worse. He says in fact that we are all condemned. A good analogy of His point in this passage is that no one goes to a prison to find people to put into prison. They are already there! He makes the point that, in the same way, He did not come to condemn. We are already condemned. No, He came to set men free from prison, even though we deserve to be there. That, my children, is grace, not Karma. Karma is the opposite. It gloats with a sense of self-righteousness. But those who gloat easily overlook the reasons they themselves deserve Karma, which could, if it were real, justly punish any of us at anytime.
So, in conclusion, let me recap. The idea of Karma depends on law. Law depends on a law-giver. Punishment depends on a punisher. Your culture rejects both the law and the law-giver, so it embraces disharmony of thought when it says, A) that there is no law or law-giver and B) Karma is punishment by some entity for breaking law. But the Bible says that there is both, law and law-giver. It also says that all deserve punishment for breaking the law, every last one. But it shows us the way to be saved from the punishment that the law-giver requires. It shows us grace. It gives us good news! And it is Good News indeed!
Dear children, I would that you think about things. Don’t buy into the silly dissonant notions that this sinful culture throws around thoughtlessly. I pray that god would give you the blessing of discernment, so that you may be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, folly and a sound mind.