Karma and Jesus

The doctrine of Karma does sound a little like what the Bible teaches about sowing and reaping. There are earthly consequences for our actions, but the other side of it is Jesus – who paid for all our wrongs. Many religious systems teach that your good works have to outweigh your bad works at the time of your death for you to go to heaven or nirvana or enlightenment or whatever it is.

But that’s not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that a relationship with God is a gift, and that gift isn’t given solely on the scale of our good or bad deeds. 

I’ll give you an example. Imagine that I gave you this huge bowl, okay? And I also gave you a huge box of eggs. For every good deed you ever did in your life, you have to crack a good egg and put it in that bowl.

  • You told the truth when you thought about lying. Crack a good egg, and put it in that bowl. 
  • You stood up for someone being bullied in middle school. Crack a good egg, and put it in that bowl. 
  • You were kind to your brother when you wanted to smack him. Crack a good egg, and put it in the bowl.
  • You gave to help people in need. Crack a good egg, put it in the bowl

We’ve all probably accumulated a lot of good eggs in that bowl of life. But now imagine I give you this big box of rotten, stinky, smelly eggs. I mean, smells like sulfur. Just horrible. Now, for every bad deed you’ve ever done, you’ve got to crack one of these brown rotten eggs and put it in the bowl.

  • The first time ever you lied. Crack a bad egg, and put it in there.
  • You were mean to your brother or sister, Crack a bad egg, and put it in there. 
  • When you did something that you knew was morally wrong, but you did it anyway. Crack a bad egg, and put it in there. 
  • When you disobeyed your parents. Crack a bad egg, put it in there
  • When you cheated on your income tax (yes that counts). Crack a bad egg, put it in there right now. 

How bad would your bowl smell by now?

Now if we are honest, this stinky bowl is the state of the human condition. We all do good. We all do wrong. 

Most people will tell you that the solution is to just put more good eggs in. But how many good eggs do you have to put in to take away the bad smell? It’s really impossible. There aren’t enough good eggs to mask the bad. The bad smell has to be removed separately to neutralize the bad smell.

This is what God says He’s done through Jesus. God can’t stand the smell of all our rebellion. He hates when we turn against his will and try to just do things our way. We can’t fix the problem on our own. When we try, it creates all this pain and confusion in life. He can’t stand it. But luckily for us, God says a relationship with Him is not based on sowing and reaping. Heaven is not based on our good or bad deeds.

Our relationship with God is a gift. Ephesians 2:8-10 says it this way 

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

The way we know we can trust in a future with God forever comes from trusting what He says and what Jesus did for us. Jesus died for us to remove the bad karma, the sins, the rotten, smelly eggs of our lives. Not only the stink of what we’ve done in the past but also for the present and even for the future. He was willing to do that – as a gift – not because you did enough good deeds.

He was willing to do that because he loves you. And he created you for intimacy with him. He wants to get rid of the effects of that stink and sin. He died on the cross to pay for what we owe, to look at our mixed-smelling bowl of eggs and still call it good. And he did that so that we can turn back to God and he can be right to forgive us.

And then he says to us, “Look, I love you. Walk with me through life and together, I’m going to help you grow to do more and more of the good deeds that I planned for you to do before you were ever born.” So we’re in this relationship with God and it truly is a gift.

But there’s still a reality to this idea of the law of sowing and reaping or karma. You can’t mock God’s gift. I got to just shoot really straight with you. In Christian culture, I see a lot of misunderstanding and misuse of the gift of grace. Grace is God’s forgiveness. It sets us right with God.

But sometimes people think, “I can just do whatever I want and there will be no consequences.” That’s not true. It’s not true in this life, but it’s also not true in the life to come. God’s gift of grace means that our sins won’t condemn us to hell. But, our sins still have earthly and even heavenly consequences. Jesus was very clear about that.

If you sleep around, you still may get an STD. You may cut ethical corners or blow up at someone at work and get fired. If you run out into the middle of the street, you might get hit by a car.

In those situations, you can’t say “God, why did you do this to me?” He put certain physical and moral laws in place. Luckily, God is also merciful. Even when we violate the law of sowing and reaping, even when we do wrong, it’s not the end of the story.

He doesn’t abandon us. He moves in with us to guide us through it. So if you keep playing with matches and you set your house on fire, it doesn’t mean he’s just going to put the fire out, but it means he will be with you through it. If you lean into him, he’ll make you stronger as a result and it’ll help you learn from it.

God wants to lead us so that we sow good things and we reap even better things. Galatians 6:7-10 says:

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Your eternity is not based on what you do or don’t do. It’s a gift that he’s given. And if you never have received the gift from Jesus, just ask him today. Tell him, “Thank you, God, that you’re willing to forgive all of my wrongs. And I want what Jesus did to count for me to pay for that so that you can come into my life and lead and guide me.”

And then if you have that relationship with God, don’t just ignore the law of sowing and reaping. It’s not wise. If you’ve struggled with addictions in the past, don’t just keep on sowing your struggles. Don’t stay in the cycle of partying or hanging out with the wrong crowd or sleeping around. That only reaps continued chains of slavery. Instead, start to sow good habits. You might consider a restore class and work through a path, a new habit, so that you can reap better in your life.

You know, if you’ve been sowing habits and things in your life and you don’t like how you’re living now, let your faith community help you. That’s why the church is here. We want to lock arms with each other and walk together – not in judgment or condemnation, but in love and grace. Scripture says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ. We can walk with him to become the people God intended us to be. Let’s walk together so that all of us start to sow better habits and reap better results.

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Speaker: John Burke