There’s No Such Thing As Karma, But You Can Thank God For Grace
You will discover, if you’re paying 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. This kind of thinking is called relativism, wherein good and evil are seen as relative to the individual. This modern method of moral rationalization accomplishes a couple of goals for the rebellious heart. First, it works to clear the conscience concerning sin. It does this by allowing a person to judge himself by a set of subjective, personal standards, which he mostly meets. But even if he doesn’t meet them, he is also the judge, so still, no problem. Second, it also allows him to judge harshly any other person who would dare look at his sin in light of objective absolutes.
But in order to actually live this way, violence must be done to rational thought. We can’t, on the one hand, say morality is relative to the individual, and then, on the other, impose our own moral standards onto the individual who has no moral compunction to not, say, steal our car.
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 found in the assumption of reincarnation. The thinking goes something like this: Suppose that you are a wealthy Hindu and you notice that across town there are a lot of horribly poor people. Karma allows you to ignore their plight by telling yourself that those poor souls are paying for the sins they committed in a previous life. They are working off Karma, you might say, even though they have no idea what the sins were that they are now paying for. You, on the other hand, though you likewise have no recollection of the good deeds in your previous life, are now living the good life because of them. That is the origins of Karma anyway… in a nutshell.
But when you encounter the word it will be a westernized version of it. A poor soul’s misfortune is attributed to Karma being visited onto him for something he did in this life. So if I steal your car, and I am maimed in a crash during the getaway, someone might simply utter the word Karma rather than, “He got what he deserved;” never mind that according to relativism the theft of your car may not have been wrong … at least for me.
It’s reasonable to ask, I think, if we are going to be attributing misfortunes to Karma, who is the supreme administrator of this “justice?” Is it a personal being? A force? A deity? And any reasonable person ought to wonder, if we are all living under the threat of payback from this entity, where do we go to learn what is absolutely right and wrong so that we might escape this “Karma?” Ourselves? Relativism, as we’ve discussed, makes that impossible. So where do we go?
You can see, I hope, the inconsistencies in the assumptions behind this word. The thinking necessarily assumes absolutes, which is to say that it assumes that there is ultimate good and evil that apply to all people, and which must be lived out in order that we may earn our escape from bad things being visited upon us in return for our own transgressions. This, of course, is inconsistent with relativism which rejects absolutes.
The word also implies self-righteousness. When someone steals my car and is maimed in the getaway, how do I know that the very fact that my car was stolen and destroyed in the first place was not Karma being visited on me? To attribute someone else’s misfortune to Karma, a question ought to be raised in my own mind: “Have I 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 who has reason to attribute that misfortune to Karma? Has anyone really lived so righteously? The answer is, of course, no. But Man will always judge others more harshly than he judges himself. Thoughtless Man is happy to attribute the bad in the lives of others to Karma while withholding judgment of himself when bad things happen to him.
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. Man sinned, and sin wasn’t all that entered the world at that point; tragedy entered also, lots of tragedy. We have sickness, death, violence, destruction and so on, all of it the result of man’s sin. But we are not left to guess what we must do to escape the ultimate justice of the lawgiver. 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 for himself personally. But 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 and that we can expect something much worse in return for our bad deeds. He says, in fact, that we are all condemned. A good analogy of Jesus’ point in this passage is that no one goes to a prison to find people to put into prison. They’re already there! In the same way, He says that He didn’t come to condemn for 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.
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 law, and the law-giver, so it embraces disharmony of thought when it says, A) that there is no objective and absolute law or law-giver, and B) Karma is punishment meted out by some entity for breaking some kind of law. But the Bible says that there is both, law and law-giver. It also says that all deserve punishment for breaking the law. 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 concerning our dire situation! And it is good news indeed!
Dear children, I would that you think about things. Don’t buy into silly notions that this sinful culture throws around thoughtlessly. I pray that God would give you the blessing of discernment so that you might be able to distinguish between folly and sound thinking, truth and falsehood.