Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 27
This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.All right, welcome back to the podcast. Let me just say a quick apology for the short break that we have had. Our pastoral staff and I, we went to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, and so we were out of town for about half a week, and then when we got back, a beloved church member died, so I was busy caring for that family and spending time with them and then doing the funeral. And then right after that, my wife and I both got the stomach bug, so we’ve been sick. So we’ve had a bit of a short break, but we are back,and we’re here with another episode and another question. And the question for this episode is,should Christians believe in karma? Now, that’s a good question. Karma is one of the most popular beliefs today in the world, regardless of religious affiliation. It seems like it’s almost an intrinsic belief that most people hold to some sort of karmic belief system. And karma is an Eastern belief. It comes from Buddhism and Hinduism, and essentially karma is the idea that how you live and treat others determines the quality of life that you have. And there are basically two ways this plays out. The first is in this life. So if you are kind and generous and treat people well, then you’ll have a good life now and good things will happen to you now. But interestingly enough, both Buddhism and Hinduism teach that the merit you build up now in this life carries over into your next life after reincarnation. So in other words, if you live a good life now and treat people well now and dogood things now, then you will have a favorable reincarnation and have a good next life. So then,just to summarize karma, it’s the basic idea that living well and treating others kindly and doing good things will result in a good life now and in your future reincarnated life. But here’s the question. What does the Bible say about this and how can we interact with this idea biblically? Well,when we look in the Bible, the closest thing to karma that we find is the idea of reaping and sowing. So for instance, Galatians 6 verse 7 says, a man reaps what he sows. Now on the surface,that does seem a little bit like karma, does it not? A man reaps what he sows. So in other words,it seems to imply that if I sow good things, I will reap good things. But if I sow bad things,I will reap bad things. That sounds a lot like karma. And pretty much every reference to reaping and sowing in the Bible does sound like karma. But there’s an important difference that we need to understand and need to learn to recognize. When the Bible speaks about reaping and sowing,it’s speaking in terms of general principles, not guaranteed promises. All right, so let’s make sure we understand that when the Bible speaks of reaping and sowing, it is talking in terms of general principles, not guaranteed promises. In other words, in general, if you sow bad things,you will reap bad things. But in general, if you sow good things, you will reap good things. And again, just looking at life experience, we know this principle to be generally true, do we not?For instance, if a person is bent towards deception and crime and acts in accordance with those tendencies, we can generally expect that he’s going to suffer the consequences of those decisions.He’s going to be punished. He’s going to end up in jail or worse. Generally speaking, that is true.And if a person is loving and volunteers and helps others and gives to charities,generally we can expect that that person is going to be well-loved and appreciated. People are going to look on that person very favorably. Generally speaking, these things are true. But again,they are just that. They are general principles, not guaranteed promises. Because we know that the Bible also acknowledges and laments the fact that very often in our world, because it is a fallen world, the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Ecclesiastes, the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible speaks of this very often. We read in Ecclesiastes 7 verse 15, In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil doing. In other words, the author of Ecclesiastes there is saying, I’ve seen righteous people die young even though they are righteous, but I’ve seen wicked people live good, long, happy lives even though they are wicked and it’s not fair.We see this idea constantly in the Bible. You see in Psalm 73 verses 3 through 5, the Bible says,For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they had no pangs unto death. Their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are. They are not stricken like the rest of mankind. The psalmist there is lamenting the fact that even though he and others are righteous, he has seen that arrogant, wicked people have no problems until the day that they die. They will often have long, happy lives and then they go and they’re not able to live and they’re not stricken like the rest of mankind and he’s saying, this is the reality of the world we live in and it’s not fair. So these passages and others like them are acknowledging and lamenting the fact that in this fallen world, very often, the wicked will prosper. But not only that,we also know that the Bible acknowledges and laments the fact that the righteous will also suffer. I mean, we can look to Job, who the Bible describes as blameless and upright and see how great his sufferings and his losses were. We can look to Paul and the other apostles who all did good and sowed much good in the world, but who all suffered greatly. And apart from John, died horrible, martyred deaths. Most of all, we can look to Jesus, who was literally perfect in every way and without sin, who only sowed good all the time and yet he suffered greatly and died a horrible death upon the cross. If karma was true, if karma was real, then none of these things would happen.The righteous wouldn’t suffer, the wicked wouldn’t prosper, but they do and we know it. We can look around our world and we see it. It is clear. So karma is not a Christian belief. It is not supported by the Bible. And yet here’s what I’ve found. We all want karma to be true, don’t we? Well,only in certain situations. You see, I tell my church fairly often that while most Christians would not say that they believe in karma, they would never admit that they believe in karma,there’s a dark place in all of our hearts that desperately want karma to be true and we want to believe that it is. And we can prove this too. It’s fairly easy. When Christians begin to suffer,we desperately want to cry out and say something like, why is this happening?What did I do to deserve this? Do you hear the karma in there? We’re essentially saying,I’ve been good. I’ve done everything right. This shouldn’t be happening to me. I’ve done good. I deserve good. Or just think about when bad things start to happen to Christians and their lives are falling apart and everything is just barely holding on by a thread and all this stuff is happening.They will often cry out to the Lord and say something like, Lord, I’ve been going to church.I’ve been reading my Bible. I’ve been praying. I’ve been doing everything you’ve asked of me.So why is this happening? Again, do you hear the karma in there? Our expectation, even as Christians,is that we will receive good things if we have been good. And what we’re actually doing in those moments is we are revealing our desire for justice. We recognize that our world is fallen and broken,that we exist in a world in which the wicked do prosper and the righteous do suffer. And we know that it isn’t right. We desperately want someone to come along and fix the brokenness of our world and make all things right. Interestingly enough, though, you never really hear people mention karma when they know that they’ve done wrong and deserve wrong. Right? Isn’t that kind of interesting?It’s only when bad stuff is happening to us and we feel like we don’t deserve it that we reveal our deep desire for karma. But when we know that we’ve done something wrong and gotten away with it,you never hear anyone mention karma then. And it’s because we know that grace is greater than karma.The grace of God is too wonderful for words. The mercy of God is too precious for words.When God shows us mercy, He does not give us the punishment that we deserve for the wrongs that we have committed. When He shows us grace, He lavishes His riches upon us when we deserve the exact opposite. Mercy and grace are infinitely better than karma. So should Christians hold to a belief in karma? The answer is no. Because one, the Bible clearly reveals that karma is not true.And two, because common sense and life experience clearly reveal that karma is not true.Generally speaking, very often people will reap what they sow. But we also know that human sin caused the brokenness of our world. So now, very often, the wicked do prosper and the righteous do suffer. And within every single person is a longing for justice, for the right thing to be done in every circumstance, and also a longing for mercy and grace, for the undeserving to receive something contrary to what they deserve. And listen to me, both of those desires are satisfied in God.He is the judge of all the earth who will do right and make all things right. He will not overlook even one sin, but He will punish the evildoer. But praise be to the Lord that He also provide us with a Savior who is full of mercy and grace, who is ready to forgive, who is ready to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins and give us the reward that He earned in His righteous life.So those longings for justice as well as mercy and grace ultimately find their satisfaction in Christ. So no, you should not believe in karma. You should look to Jesus who satisfies the justice that God demands and who also provides us with the mercy and grace that we so desperately need and want. Thanks for the question. Really appreciate it and I look forward to answering more in the future.