Q: #265. Do you believe in karma?
A: In the past, a guy I worked with spread lies about me and did cruel things to me to get my job. It worked. He got my job and caused me to lose mine. About a year after that, he got fired. Was that karma?
What is karma? Since I know very little about the Buddhist and Hindu religions with which the word “karma” is associated, I decided to look up the definition of “karma.” It is actually pretty amazing how many different definitions people have for the same word. A lot of it is wrapped up complicated in New Age mumbo jumbo which made absolutely NO sense to me. So, let me just go with the simple definition from dictionary.com: “action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation.” (Put another way, EVERY action one takes has an effect or consequence which affects one’s future both now and in the next life.)
As I have discussed previously on this site, reincarnation is totally unbiblical (See: Q: #111). Since Buddhists and Hindus agree that “karma” is inseparable from reincarnation, that right there is enough for me to say, “I don’t believe in karma.” Unfortunately, when many people define “karma” today, they simply mean, “If you do good things, good things will happen to you, and if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you.” And, “What you do to someone else is likely to happen to you too.” Aside from the fact that Buddhists and Hindus do not hold to this definition, there is another important thing to consider: “Who, or what, causes good or bad things to happen?” As you will see, this is another key reason why “karma” is unbiblical.
Actually, as Christians, we could say that the “good things, bad things” statement has some Biblical roots. The Bible talks about “sowing and reaping” (Gal 6:7-10)(Job 4:8)(Prov 22:8-9)(Hos 10:12-13) which is kind of the same thing. However, there is a key difference between “karma” and what the Bible speaks of, and that is that GOD the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are behind what happens to all people. Buddhists and Hindus do not believe this at all. Buddhists are almost exclusively atheistic, while most Hindus are primarily pantheistic (everything [the whole universe] is part of an all-encompassing, immanent, and impersonal God, which they call “Brahma”). Neither Buddhists, nor Hindus, believe God has anything to do with “karma.” Therefore, this is another problem with “karma” from a Christian viewpoint.
Yes, if we “sow” good things, we often “reap” good things. And conversely, if we “sow” bad things, we often “reap” bad things. But, God is behind the rewards and punishment we receive. In addition, these rewards and punishment have NOTHING to do with eternal life (or the next life as reincarnation teaches). Our eternal destiny is only going to be in one of two places: Heaven or Hell, and no “works,” good or bad, are going to determine where we go. It is ONLY through faith in Jesus Christ, or lack of faith that we will go to Heaven or Hell. Sowing and reaping is not always a hard and fast rule either. There are people “sow” good things, but good things (or rewards) don’t always follow (look at what most of the disciples went through), and there are evil people who “sow” bad things, but prosper (usually for a short time). We should also thank God that when we “sow” bad things, we don’t always receive (reap) the punishment we deserve (by God’s grace).
So, if we take the example I used above about what happened to me, was that “karma?” Obviously, I do not believe so. Was God behind it? I (personally) believe He was. I believe that guy “reaped what he sowed.” When it happened, I leaned on these verses: (Rom 12:17-19) “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (18) If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” I did not take revenge against that man. I tried my best to pray for him and forgive him (probably not as well as I should have). And, I asked the Lord to avenge me. I believe He did. It was not “karma.”
*** Note: Here is a quote I love that is attributed to A.W. Tozer from “Five Vows for Spiritual Power” about letting God fight our battles:
“I don’t have to fight. The Lord does the fighting for me. And He’ll do the same for you. He will be an enemy to your enemy and an adversary to your adversary, and you’ll never need to defend yourself. Now what do we defend? Well, we defend our talents, we defend our service, and particularly we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are. If a story gets out about you, the big temptation is to try to run it down. But you know running down the source of a story is hopeless task–absolutely hopeless. It’s like trying to find the bird after you’ve found the feather on your lawn. You can’t do it! But if you’ll turn yourself wholly over to God, He will defend you completely and see to it that no one will harm you. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper,” He says, “and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgement thou shalt condemn.” (Isa 54:17)
(Other good verses: Prov 20:22, 2 Th 1:6, 1 Pet 2:21-23, Heb 10:30, Jer 20:11, Ex 14:14)