Should Christians Believe in Karma?
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Facebook Theology. That’s what I heard it called the other day. You know, those “cute” sayings posted by Christians on Facebook. I see it all the time. Cute sayings that seem “true enough” to sound okay but are really not true and can lead to some really bad conclusions. I recently saw two very colorful, eye-catching posts referencing karma as something to pursue (especially “positive karma”). One was tips for improving good karma. The other said, “Create positive karma now!”
Seeing those naturally led me to this question, “Should Christians believe in Karma?” And to this one, “Does Karma have anything to do with a Christian’s life?” So, I decided to examine these in light of Scripture to discern truth from error and then think of a gracious response to someone I meet who thinks karma is an okay way by which to live your life. I followed a process that you can also follow whenever you want to find out the truth about any theology posted on social media.
Step #1: Define the terms and issues. Define “karma.”
The first thing I did was to research what “karma” actually meant. I discovered that “karma is a theological concept found in the Buddhist and Hindu religions. It is the idea that how you live this life will determine the quality of life you will have after reincarnation.”1 Although an eastern religious concept, the idea of karma has seeped into our western Judeo-Christian society like it’s something cool. The western understanding of karma is the idea of cause and effect where whatever you do is returned to you. Karma teaches that you get what you deserve. Westerners particularly hold onto this when it comes to wanting revenge on someone who has wronged you.
Step #2. Ask questions and support your answer with Scripture:
The next I did was to ask questions about karma and how it differs from what the Bible teaches. So, I posed these questions and answered them biblically.
• Is the idea of reincarnation biblical?
The answer is, “No.” Hebrews 9:27 says we die once then comes the judgment. For believers, we receive salvation and then get a new body but remain the same person. No reincarnation.
• Does the Bible teach that you always get what you deserve? Why or why not?
There is a general principle stated in Galatians 6:8-9 about sowing and reaping. The context is your moral and spiritual life. In general, when you choose to live apart from Christ, your life will get messed up. However, there is no one-to-one correlation between doing something good or bad and getting the exact good or bad reward for it. You can be as nice as possible to all your family members and yet have everyone still dislike you or be mean to you. We cannot judge what happens to us by whether we deserve it or not. Thankfully, we do not get what we deserve when it comes to judgment because not one of us would get anything good from God! His mercy chooses to give us His grace instead.
• What is the difference between karma and grace?
Huge difference here. The Bible does not teach karma. You cannot earn salvation through any good works or lose it through bad works. There are no scales. God took that away. The Bible teaches God’s grace toward us. Ephesians 2:8-9 states very plainly, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”
Grace is where you get what you don’t deserve. Grace is unmerited favor. It is love and mercy bestowed upon us by God because He desires us to have it. As you can see, very different to karma. More like polar opposites.2
We deserve judgment — every one of us — but we get life by just our faith in Christ. And, zillions of wonderful blessings come to us by that one act alone! We just might have to wait to receive some of them until later.
• How does wanting people to “get what they deserve” (referring to the wicked) fit in with the gospel?
You are talking about REVENGE here! Hard-heartedness. There is no place for revenge in the gospel. Romans 12:17-21 tells us to payback evil with kindness and good.
Jesus calls us to respond counter-intuitively. Instead of meeting evil with equal or greater force, he urges us to meet evil with a completely different force: with good. Instead of paying back in kind, we are called to pay back with kindness.3
What is the kindest thing you can do for someone who has wronged you? Pray for their salvation, right? Pray for them to experience God’s amazing grace, right? Not look to “karma” to make things right.
• What is the one act upon which you can guarantee your destiny?
The one and only act in this life that guarantees what will happen in the next is this: placing your faith in Jesus Christ or rejecting Him. That’s plainly stated in John 3:16-18; 5:24. No doubt about it. Done deal. And, even this is pure grace.
Step #3. Come up with a graceful response.
When someone you know is caught up in the belief in karma, you need to have a graceful response ready to point her to the truth. Recognize that a belief in karma can certainly cause fear in someone’s life or lead to a hard heart towards others. So, how can you respond? Simply say, “I am so glad that God doesn’t give me what I deserve. I deserve severe judgment for my sin and nothing good at all in light of His goodness. I am so grateful for His grace to me that expresses His kindness to me because of His love for me. It’s a much better way to live than to live in fear that I am not good enough or to live in bitterness against those who have mistreated me.”
Does karma have anything to do with a Christian’s life? Absolutely not! By perpetuating the idea of karma, you actually draw people away from Jesus and His amazing grace and toward something that poorly substitutes for Him. Grace = YES! Karma = NO!
So, there is today’s lesson in Facebook Theology 101.
What does the Bible say about karma? (Gotquestions.org)
What is the Difference Between Grace and Karma? (Crosswalk.com)
Healthy Living Bible Study of Colossians (read online)
Healthy Living Bible Study of Colossians (download pdf)
What does the Bible say about reincarnation?