Despite running into this challenge on multiple occasions, I rarely see Christians talk about it. Is Karma taught in the Bible? This concept from eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism is appealing to many. But is karma taught in the Bible, as some claim?
What Do You Mean by “Karma?”
Karma is primarily used in two ways. Before making any response to this question you’ll want to make sure to ask a few of your own and find out what they mean by “Karma.” One is strictly religious and pretty obviously separate from Christianity. Merriam Webster defines it as “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence” Put another way, what you do in this life will affect you positively or negatively when you reincarnate into your next life. This definition is only relevant to the question if they also believe that reincarnation is biblical, in which case I would start there instead.
What Does the Bible Say?
The more common definition is a much more vague, “What goes around comes around” view of the world. The most common place people point to in order to show that this is a Christian idea is Galatians 6:7. Ananda.org makes the claim, “The Bible refers to karma in the book of Galatians when it says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy. Every action, every thought, brings about its own corresponding rewards. Human suffering is not a sign of God’s anger with mankind. It is a sign, rather, of man’s ignorance of the divine law.”
Is That What Paul Meant?
If we look at just this one verse, it does seem to indicate that karma is taught in the Bible. But I think we may be reading a bit too far into that one verse. Throughout scripture we are told of our human sinful nature that separates us from God. But it’s the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus that bridges that gap and gives us true joy and hope. The good works we do are supposed to stem from what has been done for us, not because we want a reward, or fear the consequence. We are told numerous times in the Bible that God does reward good deeds and punish evil. Karma is only in the Bible insofar as justice is.
It does not take a historian to see that what goes around does not always come around on this Earth. The wicked go unpunished and the good suffer through hardship every day. Perfect justice is only achieved by God, in his time. But God has set things up to where we can be forgiveness, instead of receiving our due punishment. What goes around will not ultimately come around, because Jesus paid the price once and for all.
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