What Can Karma Do For You?

November 9, 2011


It’s a pretty popular philosophy, and it’s not just for Hindus.  It’s a great philosophy for New Agers, Christians, religious and atheists.  It’s just a super trendy one-size-fits-all worldview.  We like to think that what goes around comes around.  Justice happens, one way or another.  Seems reasonable.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about how karma had become like a trendy piece of Pier 1 furniture that most Americans keep in their homes.  We don’t really think about it, but it seems more exotic than our regular old couches, and our regular old Jesus.  I have heard many Christians refer to karma, as if it is a real force.

But unless you are a Hindu (and I don’t think there are very many of you reading this blog,) it’s time that we ditched karma.  It’s exotic appeal is starting to wear thin on me.

Karma Does Not Care

As far as worldviews go, karma (in all of its forms) seems to be the best that humanity can come up with.  Whatever we do in life determines how we are rewarded or punished in the next.  I may come back in the next life as a centipede or a President, depending on how awesome I am in this life.  We think that is “justice.”

Virtually every religion has some form of karma.

The thing is, I’m not sure why we keep going back to it.  Karma does not care, not about you or me or justice (as we imagine it).  Karma does not love or hate.  Karma is an inanimate, natural force.  It never acts on its own.  It only reacts to what you give it.

What Can Karma Do for You?

It has also become obvious to me that westerners would not be so quick to believe in karma, unless they think karma is going to give them something good.  People like to believe that humans are generally noble creatures who deserve to be bumped up the ladder in the next life.  We all think we must have some pretty good karma built up.  It’s only other people we look at and hope they come back as toads or urinals.  If we were being really honest with ourselves, either we’d shape up, or we might give this whole karma thing a second thought.

More Than Karma

I say that karma (or whatever any religion calls it) is the best humanity can come up with, because it seems to be the only consistent thing between every religion conceived of by mankind.  We’ve never moved past a rather rudimentary system of action and reward…

…Which is why I am so convinced that Jesus was not just a human being.

Think about it.  Every religion goes the way of “karma,” or “justice.”  Jesus comes along and preaches compassion.  No one had ever conceived of a deity who would go to the lengths to pursue humanity as Christ.  If Jesus had not come along, I do not think we’d have ever thought of such a thing as a compassionate God who actually sacrifices himself for people.  And Jesus’ message still seems so absurd, that there have been virtually no copycat religions.  People prefer karma…even Christians.

But karma is inferior.  It is a human invention with no thoughts or desires.  Christ actually has desires and motivations.  And he bridges the gap between what you deserve and what he wants you to have.  You are his motivation.

Why do you think karma is so popular today?  Does it just go along with our obsession with Asian-y exotic looking Buddha statues?

30 responses to What Can Karma Do For You?

  1. Tough one here, Matt.

    Do I get what I deserve? Or do I get what I believe?

    Had to look it up, but Jesus said that all in the grave will someday hear His voice, and “Shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation”.

    Sounds a bit Karma-ish to me.

    On the other hand, “The love of God is shown toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

    No deserving about it.

    What goes around comes around unless Christ puts out His nail-scared hand to stop the wheel.

    Besides, if karma worked, then I wonder what the Hell I did in former times to be who I am today and what I am now?

    John Cowart

    • And by the same token, how sorry should we feel for all the starving orphans in the world? They must’ve done some pretty bad stuff in the former life to end up like that.

      • Exactly. Karma negates compassion. If the poor and suffering deserve the lives they have, who are we to interfere. In India, it is the Christians who run the orphanages, feed the poor, care for the outcasts. In fact, Indian law prohibits adoption because it interferes with karma. (You can be legal guardians, as our friends are, but that’s as far as it goes.)

        • I’m confused. Doesn’t Christianity teach that the poor, suffering, and meek will be the most rewarded in heaven? Don’t many Christians believe that our trials in life were deliberately given to us by God in order to teach us something or prepare us for some future challenge? I’m reminded of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (yes, in India), which operated (operates?) on her belief that suffering brings people closer to Jesus — thus refusing to give painkillers or medicine to the ill and injured, eschewing modern medical care and hygiene practices, and doing nothing to address the problems that brought the poor and suffering to their doors in the first place.

  2. I believe in karma in a way. I don’t believe in the reincarnation aspect but I do believe that what comes around goes around here on earth. I base that off what Solomon said in Proverbs 26:27-28, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone it will roll back on them.”

    Being a parent, and I’m sure the other parents reading the post can understand, you get a little bit more insight into God’s character. Like no matter how bad your child acted up during the day, you still love them. Which is the opposite of karma.

  3. Karma is just another performance standard that humans create to make themselves feel good about their behavior. You know, if Tiger Woods had remained at the top in championship Golf, we’d be pissed.

    We are mad at God if there is a calamity, and blessed when their isn’t one. We are suspect at jailhouse confessions of Salvation; we just want goodness to be based on performance.

    We’ve decided that murder is worse than cheating on your income taxes, and many have decided who gets to go to Heaven and who gets to go to Hell based on performance. We hear it all the time, “so and so is a good person…”

    Christian Karma is being good, being blessed, not sinning or whatever. We hate that a child molester could get to heaven.

    Karma is as popular as the cry for human justice, occupation of Wall Street and winning the lottery, but none of it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    We measure our success in this life by our ability to please God in some religious fashion – stupid. Then we start making rules and doctrines to support our belief on performance – more stupidity.

    Faith in Jesus (the kind the gives the seal of the Holy Spirit)is all it takes for the Karma of Heaven to respond. In fact, it is the opposite of Karma, we simply admit that we suck and God can handle it, and then we’re in.

  4. Just yesterday me and my wife were talking and she said “Christians think God is the original creator of Karma.” I think it’s because we like to think that our work has eternal worth. We want to rise to god-like status by directing the outcome of our future. It’s just to simple to think we need to submit to Christ. There’s not enough work to validate the benefit.

  5. We don’t believe in karma, we believe in GRACE! And as far as karma, maybe you can call the final judgement the ultimate karma. Grace is when we get what we don’t deserve. Mercy is when don’t get what we deserved. Judgement is when we get what we do deserve. Karma is inferior and isn’t Christian.

    • “Karma is inferior and isn’t Christian.”

      Well, yeah, this aspect of Hinduism and Buddhism isn’t present in the same form in Christianity. That’s true. But, by what standard do you judge it to be “inferior”? It is less personally satisfying to you? Do you think that we should all be assessing what is true and not true about reality based on what concepts sound like they would make the world we live in more enjoyable for us?

  6. I completely agree with your view that the Hindu principle of karma is humanistic and that Jesus, by his grace, intervenes on our behalf. Our works do not earn us a spot in heaven, nor do our sins garner us a place in hell.

    Whenever I’ve thought of karma as a concept, however, I’ve likened it more to Galatians 6:7, “A man reaps what he sows”. This also seems to echo Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given to you”.

    God has created the universe with an intrinsic system of justice that we might not always see or that may not always play out in this life. Even with Jesus’ intervention, which saves us from eternal death, we will still have to give an account of our life to our Father one day.

    In addition, God in His infinite wisdom designed our world in such a way that there are consequences to every action. Although we are saved from the eye-for-an-eye scholarly justice, we usually have to face up to the natural repercussions of our choices. This humbles and grows us, equipping us with wisdom for the future and knowledge of God for our reliance on Him.

    When extrapolated as far as this, it is totally different to karma, but I just felt the need to add my voice today. 😛

  7. It was Bono who said in an interview published in World Magazine I think sometime in 2005 “The thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Karma and Grace”
    Justice (Karma) ia getting what you deserve
    Mercy is not getting what you deserve
    Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
    I am holding out for GRACE

  8. So, obviously Christianity does not include the reborn-as-a-toad aspect of karma. But “Whatever we do in life determines how we are rewarded or punished in the next” describes a huge portion of Christianity — true, people who focus on the “saved by grace through faith” aspect don’t really think about it, but the people who focus on the “faith without works is dead” part do. Do you think that someone’s life on earth has no impact whatsoever on their afterlife, on whether they end up in heaven or in hell?

    • Nope, just whether or not they have the seal of the Holy Spirit which can only be obtained by faith.

      I am sure the next question is “Can we do whatever we want to and expect to get into Heaven?” The answer is yes, if we have the real faith (not belief). Paul covered this paradox in the Book of Romans.

      • No, my next question actually is, who decides whether you have faith? Do you choose to believe something because you want to? (I know I can’t will myself to believe something I’m not convinced of.) Does God have to open your heart to belief in him? (That seems like a weird system on face, to reward you for something that you had no part in, but the Bible is full of stories in which God hardens someone’s heart against him or gives someone feelings of belief.)

        Is there any way to know whether someone has “the seal of the Holy Spirit”?

        • The Bible says that it spiritually discernable by those that have it (Romans – I think chapter 8 – but certainly in Romans). It also says that there is fruit which corresponds with the transformation (Galatians 5:22 in terms of character, and 1 Corinthians 12 in terms of the supernatural working of this spirit).

    • I was hoping you’d comment today, NFQ. I honestly have no idea how our lives affect our destinies. If Christ wants to save Hitler, I really have nothing to say about it…but I trust him to do what’s best.

      But following Jesus is not without rewards in this life either. I think I’ve saved myself a lot of heartache and maybe I’ve impacted others positively when I’ve tried to follow Jesus’ teachings.

      • I think that’s a consistent position for you to take, but a pretty abhorrent one. You have to be willing to contort your definition of “justice” into “whatever God may have done or commanded.” Reminds me of how William Lane Craig is willing to defend genocide, but only when God personally tells you it’s okay (and we can totally trust genocidal dictators not to lie about that, right?). You also paint yourself into a corner when you define what’s right to be whatever God decides. Am I understanding you correctly – that there is literally nothing that God could do or allow to happen that would make you see his decision-making process as flawed? (I actually just wrote a post about this yesterday.)

        • I see what you are saying. But I don’t think there is “good” separate from what God wants. I do think he plays by his own rules and in the end will make things right. I just can’t figure out how everything will be sorted out. Thats all I’m saying.

          • I have a hard time imagining that you do literally zero moral reasoning on your own. (If you had a vision in which God instructed you to kill all the people in a neighboring town and destroy all their property, would you do it? Or would you question the validity of the vision, because there’s no way God could actually have commanded that?) But if that’s your definition of “good,” then I suppose it’s logically consistent and all. It’s just sort of a conversation-stopper.

      • Here is maybe a more theologically relevant question: Do you agree that “faith without works is dead”? Do you think Hitler’s works reveal him to have lived a life of faith? Could you imagine that he has, as David called it, the “seal of the Holy Spirit”?

  9. Thought-provoking, Matt. I’ve never really thought of it as “Christian Karma”, but you’re right. We like the thought of people getting what they dish out. We want justice–for everyone else. For ourselves, we want mercy.

    Love your points about Christ, and how you know He is more than human.

  10. We are frustrated by the fact that God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. We are angry at his grace. It is frustrating, isn’t it?

    And the difference that I see in consequences and karma is that a consequence to a particular action happens no matter what. Karma, as I understand it, is like an account that you can build up with good actions; then, when you do something wrong, the good account you’ve already built up acts as a sort of buffer between you and the consequence.

    Ask Job, he’ll tell you all about justice.

    • Yeah, wasn’t it so gracious and loving of God to ruin Job’s life, kill off his family, make him sick and miserable, etc. just to try to make a point to Satan? … Are you saying that this is how God’s “justice” works?

  11. NFQ,

    I’m saying God can do whatever he wants to do with what he’s created. We belong to him. Either you trust him to be just in the end, or you don’t. Hebrews 12 tells us that God gives us hardship to discipline us – because he loves us as his children. See especially verse 7.

    I’ve continued to think about this karma thing too as it relates to followers of Christ. In fact, what comes to mind is that Christ told his disciples they would in fact suffer if they walked like he did. I believe we will too – if we’re following him. That’s definitely not karma. That’s do what’s right = you will be hated.

    • If a parent’s philosophy toward their child was that they could “do whatever [they] want to do with what [they’d] created,” I think we would call that person an abusive parent. “These people belong to me [and therefore I can make them suffer in whatever way suits my fancy]” is the mentality of a slaveowner toward his slaves. Now, if you (like Matt) believe that goodness is simply defined by whatever God decides, then maybe this is fine by you. But please don’t compare this sort of god to our common understanding of a loving parent. I don’t think it’s okay for a parent to discipline a child by deliberately giving them crippling diseases, destroying their possessions, and killing their loved ones.

      • I agree with you in many ways, though you may not think so. In the end comparing God to an earthly parent breaks down on many levels.

        I suppose I can see through the suffering of myself, my wife, my sons, and see an eternal objective on God’s part. In the end, the evil in the world is allowed – for now – and God will use it to just ends.

        And I do believe God determines what is good, what is lovely, what is truth – wouldn’t that be a reasonable conclusion because I believe he’s God? He IS Love, He IS Goodness, He IS Truth.

        I pray you will come to know him for the loving God he is.

  12. I think they dig karma because it is believed to be something people can control. If I do this I get this, as you mentioned: Action and reward. Christ on the other hand says things like the first shall be last and the last shall be first. He totally changes the way things work in the human mind.

  13. undeserving sinner October 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    karma today is used to destroy us sinners like myself that we could neverdeserve grace . that Jesus could never intervene and save us from the wolves in the court systems to the very people we live next door too. Alot ofverses that speak on reaping what you sow are in the old testaments . jesus died for sinners like myself the unworthy . so no matter what a person is guilty of or convicted of wecant say that