Is Karma in the Bible?

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬).

“That was karma,” they say. Others say it more crudely. We use this phrase when something happens that makes us think what goes around come around, or you deserved that! We call this karma.

Or take the definition from Earl Hickey from My Name is Earl:

“You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things and then wonders why his life sucks? Well, that was me. Every time something good happened to me, something bad was always waiting around the corner: karma. That’s when I realized that I had to change. So, I made a list of everything bad I’ve ever done, and one by one I’m gonna make up for all my mistakes. I’m just trying to be a better person.”

This show–which was hilarious!–was centered around it. Justin Timberlake made a whole song about it. Karma: what goes around, comes around. Do something bad, something bad happens to you, vice versa.

However, we need to talk about if karma is actually a biblical concept. How does karma relate to Scripture? We know the world uses the term — and I’m sure the majority of people believe it’s true — but if we truly believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, we should take a gander at it.

Reap What You Sow

We should first understand that karma is a concept of Hinduism and Buddhism. It is not a Christian concept. Scripture may speak about reaping what we sow (as is shown in the passage above), but that is not necessarily karma. Karma emphasizes that, if you do good things in this life, you will be reincarnated as something better.

Of course, Christians don’t believe in reincarnation (or, at least they shouldn’t). But I know most people don’t view karma in light of Buddhism or Hinduism. They view it purely from an earthly standpoint. Just like Earl Hickey did. Do good things and good things will come. Do bad things and bad things will come. It’s simple math. Logically, it makes sense.

However, the issue is that is doesn’t make sense in light of the gospel of grace. And it’s exhausting. Scroll back up and read Earl’s quote. “So, I made a list of everything bad I’ve ever done, and one by one I’m gonna make up for all my mistakes.” Thank God this is not what He requires of us. I would die before I finished the list of bad things I’ve done. I wouldn’t even get halfway done because — and read this twice — I do bad things to others every day.

I don’t have to do or say something aloud for it to be bad. My thoughts are bad enough. Maybe I get overly angry with the person who just cut me off and mutter You’re an idiot! in my head. Perhaps a person gave me attitude and I used it as an excuse to cuss them out in my head. Point is, it would be a never-ending cycle–which is exactly what we see with Earl.

The Karma-less Gospel

Friends, sometimes I do bad things–and bad things don’t happen in return. Even more, sometimes I do good things and bad things happen. Thank God for that. Christianity isn’t about being a good person, but trusting the best Person. The Bible doesn’t teach karma, but grace. Grace for the wicked, for the easily-angered, for the sexually deviant. Scripture offers free grace; karma offers endless retribution.

The gospel–the center of the Christian faith–is completely void of karma. Just look at Jesus. Jesus was sinless (Hebrews 4:15) yet died at the hands of Roman soldiers for crimes He did not commit.

God doesn’t offer to give us good things if we do good things. That’s moralism, which is satanic. It’s a sneaky version of the prosperity gospel: give to get. God is not glorified when you do good things just so good things may happen to you. In contrast, God offers eternal life if we simply trust in the good things His Son did.

Do we understand, though, that doing good things simply so good things may happen is not good motivation in God’s eyes? That is still self-centered which is — wait for it! — bad. God is concerned with the motivation of the heart, not mere actions. Have you read His interactions with the Pharisees?

Friend, turn your back on the bad news of karma and turn to the good news of grace in Christ! All the bad things you’ve done, are doing, and will do can be totally eradicated if you simply place all your hope in Christ’s work. Karma isn’t involved, but only grace. We don’t have to live our lives as Christians looking over our shoulder when we something sinful. We admit our wrong, repent, and press forward to Christ. No “what goes around, comes around. Only “by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭NIV).

Grace is better than karma, friends.

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