Timeless – Wisdom In Karma

Timeless – Wisdom In Karma

We’re in this series called Timeless – looking at the wisdom of Proverbs from around the world, and how they tie to what God’s revealed in the Bible. Today we’re talking about the Proverb “What goes around comes around.” And I’ll bet we’ve all got stories for this one. I remember 27 years ago January, Kathy and I were moving from Chicago to Austin to start Gateway Church. It was freezing cold, snowy, and the moving van was coming that afternoon. Ashley was 4 and Justin was 1, so my mother-in-law had flown in from Houston to help while we packed. The only thing left was the garage. So I’m hoofin it trying to get the last things packed to load, and I noticed the lawnmower gasoline can was about ¼ full. I had this thought, “I think you’re supposed to take it to a toxic waste dump.” When suddenly, into my head came the proverb of instant gratification, “Do what feels good to you.” So I said, “I don’t have time for that, it’s not gonna hurt anything if I just dump it in the flowerbed on the side of the house—besides there are no flowers there. So I did what was right in my own eyes, and everything worked perfectly. Got the moving van loaded –it’s all good!

That night, as we’re putting the kids to bed, my wife said she smelled something. It smelled kind of like natural gas. So I went and checked the stover burners—nothing. I checked the gas heater, but didn’t smell anything there, but clearly the smell was getting worse. My wife, kids, mother-in-law could all smell it, and I could too. But I had NO IDEA where this smell could be from. If it was the heater, that could be dangerous. So I called the HVAC company, they came out at 7pm and checked the gas heater, everything was fine. But he smelled it too, so he went upstairs, down into our crawl space—which is about a 4 foot high space if you don’t have a basement. He looked at me from down in the crawl space and said, “The smell is much stronger down here, but there are no gas pipes, so I’m confused.” And suddenly, I wasn’t—it hit me—I DID THIS! I sowed gasoline into my flowerbed in freezing soil, and I was reaping the fumes that evaporated through the cement into the warm crawl space, and now the heater intake in the crawl space was circulating gasoline fumes throughout the house!

Again, the first proverb of instant gratification came to mind, “Lie—you can’t admit this.” But I’m a pastor, and besides, the walkthrough was in 2 days and I was pretty sure the new owners would not be excited about living in a gas can. I confessed my wrongs to the HVAC man, who swiftly cut my heater and padlocked it. Seriously—padlocked it like he didn’t trust me! It was 10 degrees outside, so we had to call friends, load up the kids at 10pm with my mother-in-law and wife, and camp out in their basement for
3 days, while I tried to get rid of the smell before the walkthrough. I spent the next day digging a grave-
sided hole, 5 feet deep, on the side of my house in 10 degree weather. I borrowed a neighbors truck,
loaded the gas-soaked dirt, and found that toxic waste dump after all. Then I had to buy charcoal to dump
in the hole to absorb the fumes, go to a land fill and get a truck-load of new dirt, rent 4 blowers that I had
going day and night in 4 open windows. Of course, all the neighbors came to see if the Pastor guy looked
like he was burying somebody on the side of his house, and why all his windows open in 10 degree
weather. It was so fun, I got to explain to everybody what a fool I was. Miraculously, we passed
inspection and the walkthough, and I learned a valuable lesson—laws are there to protect us from
ourselves. Violate them and you reap what you sow.
We’ve all felt the reality of the proverb: “What goes around comes around.” Or you reap what
you sow. But our prevailing Cultural Proverb is much louder, “Do what feels right for you, today—live
for today—do it your own way.” But is this wise? Or in fact foolish? Isn’t it wise to consider “What are
the long-term effects of my decisions?” Maybe you’ve felt this in school when you cheated, then got
caught, and paid the consequences. Or maybe you kept buying on credit because you wanted more so
badly, but then drowned in debt. Or maybe started getting high, because “Everyone’s doing it” only you
couldn’t stop—the alcohol, the drugs, were addictive, and you felt the consequences of enslavement. Or
maybe you were promiscuous and got pregnant, or you got someone pregnant—you couldn’t believe
it—why would God do this to you? You never thought your actions would have consequences, but they
did. Or you “shaved the truth” at work, and you got fired. Everyone was doing it, why did God punish

you? You can probably think of your own scenario of reaping and sowing, we all can, and my gasoline
mistake was not my only or my worst.


When we feel the consequences of our actions, we sometimes blame God. Or we assume
God is punishing us, but the truth is God has put laws in motion—physical laws like the law of Gravity,
which cannot be ignored without consequences. Also Spiritual laws like the law of sowing and reaping, or
Karma in Hinduism and Buddhism, which also cannot be ignored without consequences. But God has
given us wisdom to guide us because He loves us. And you see God’s moral laws in every culture.
Romans 2 says this: “Even when Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, instinctively follow
what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong. They demonstrate
that God’s law is written within them.” Romans 2:14-15 In all of the major World Religions, we see
evidence of this similar Moral Law that God has written in our hearts and that comes out in our Religions.
There’s some variation, the Buddhist 8-fold path is even more morally rigorous than the 10
commandments—The 10 commandments add the first command—to put God first and not let anything
else become an idol, or first in your life. But all Religions pretty much agree on moral laws very similar to
the 10 commandments. And in most, you find the law of Karma, or sowing and reaping, or “What goes
around comes around.”
Since people throw around the word Karma, I want to take a minute to explain what it is and isn’t,
and how that relates to the Bible and God’s moral law. Like Taylor Swift came out with a song this year,
called Karma, pretty confusing–she sings, ‘Cause Karma is my boyfriend, Karma is a god, Karma is the
breeze in my hair on the weekend, Karma’s a relaxing thought, Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?
Karma is your checks ’bout to bounce, Karma is the fire in your house.” Wow! No mercy—Somebody
feels good about herself. I guess Kelce is her well-deserved karma. But Karma is not a god, Karma is just
the consequences of your actions—like “If you date Taylor Swift, your consequence is to get more camera
time in the Superbowl than the MVP Patrick Mahomes.” You’d think the MVP was Travis Kelce or
Taylor herself from all the air time the couple got.
So let’s clear up some confusion, what is Karma? Karma is a Hindu idea originally. Also adopted
by Buddhism. Karma is a Sanskrit word which literally means “action.” Generally speaking, karma is
considered to be a force that promotes cycles of positivity or negativity. In other words, positive thoughts,
words, and actions are rewarded by positive consequences. Negative or bad thoughts, words, and actions
are followed by negative consequences. In this most basic form, it is an example of God’s Moral Law
written in our hearts, coming out in our Relgious/Moral codes. But there are many variations and
distortions of this basic Law.
In it’s basic form, it’s what the Bible teaches: The Wisdom of Proverbs says: “If you set a trap
for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you
instead.” Proverbs 26:27 Now, as we’ve been saying, with wisdom of proverbs is generally true. Is it
always true that if do something terrible to someone, you’ll feel the bad consequences—not
immediately—some get away with murder—literally. But not forever. As the New Testament: Do not be
deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  8  Whoever sows to please their
flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will
reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8. it’s called the The Law of Sowing and Reaping. It’s God telling us
of his moral law that if we ignore God’s will and ways, his moral laws, we should not be surprised if we
feel the negative consequences. This wisdom is generally true. If you plant goodness and kindness toward others, generally you’ll reap goodness and kindness back. If you plant honesty in relationships, you’ll reap trust and loyalty back. If you plant politics, you’ll reap division. It’s generally true, not always.
Like my dad loved to garden, and in his office he planted pots of Texas Star plants and other plants
to beautify the sterile office. He expected to plant Texas Stars and reap Texas Stars, but the next year he
discovered cannabis growing among the Texas Stars. Apparently, the janitorial service found a side
hustle sowing weed in the Texas Star plants—they reaped jail. My dad sowed Texas Stars and was not
expecting to harvest pot in his pot plants. Proverbial Wisdom is generally true, but in our lost, broken
world, sometimes evil people plant extortion and corruption and get rich—it appears like they’ll get away with it. But Jesus said, we will all give a personal account to God. And we will be rewarded or even lose
reward, he said, for how we lived on earth.
And on the positive side, Jesus reiterated this Law as a positive command: So in
everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the
Prophets. Matthew 7:12. If you do this—you are fulfilling the point of all other moral laws—this is
what love does. So this basic idea in Eastern Culture of Karma is an example of the general moral law of
Sowing and Reaping that the Bible talks about.
But Karma is not a god, even if Taylor says so, and Karma can be a brutal doctrine to live out if
you’re honest with yourself. And here is where the Eastern idea of Karma gets tied to another doctrine
that is not aligned with the Bible: The Sanskrit term Samsara – cycle of death and rebirth. It’s the idea
of the transmigration of the soul, or reincarnation, from one life to the next. And tied to Karma, it means
you’ll either pay for the bad or be rewarded for the good in this life by what you experience in the next
life. If you think about it, Samsara is a brutal god to live under.
We all make mistakes, sin, have issues, suffer—yet if this doctrine is true, you deserve it all—it’s a
consequence of your past lives (too bad you can’t remember them in order to learn from them). But if
you can’t remember, how can you improve? And if we’ve been cycling through 1000s of lives, I don’t
see many people evolving toward no bad Karma. Plus, if you really believe this, then the impoverished,
the diseased, the starving—they deserve what they’re suffering, so don’t help them—they have to work
off their bad Karma.
You may think that’s a harsh overstatement, but my good friend Jaya who we helped build a
hospital with, rescured two girls who survived a car crash in which both their parents were killed. No one
would take in these two baby girls because they obviously had bad Karma that would follow them. Jaya
and Lakshmi took them and raised them because Jaya had come to faith in Jesus, and Jesus taught us to love and serve the least, the lost, the marginalized, and forgotten. Interestingly, Jaya came to faith after reading the Vedas—the oldest Hindu scriptures—which did not talk about Samsara or reincarnation, that came much later in Hinduism, near the time of Jesus. But Jaya was seeking, and read about the God of Light who would come as the Purush Prajapati, a man who would die to take away the affects of Karma. Jaya kept seeking this God of Light, and in a vision, he saw a brilliant God of Light who revealed himself as Jesus. Jaya passed away earlier this year—He didn’t have to pay for his Karma, Jesus paid for
him—and all his many good works, Jesus will reward.
And that’s the big difference with what the Bible teaches about sowing and reaping. Jesus paid for
our wrongs. Most moral and religious law says, “If your good works outweigh your bad deeds, you’ll go
to Heaven, or reach Nirvana, or Enlightenment.” But there’s a problem with that. IMAGINE if my I gave
you a giant bowl, And for every good deed you crack a good egg and put it in the bowl. You showed
compassion to a Middle school outcast, good job, one good egg. You showed kindness to your broth
rather than smacking him in the face, another good egg. You gave money to help people, crack one more.
And over your life, you probably have quite a few good eggs in that bowl.
But, now imagine you’re handed a box of stinking, rotten eggs to put in for every wrong deed
(some of us might need more than a box, how about a whole truckload?). So when you told that first lie,
one smelly egg goes in the bowl. You berated a kid in Middleschool, crack a brown one. You cheated on
your income tax, put one in. You said a harsh statement to your spouse, put another one. If every time you
lied, cheated, stole, hurt another person, or generally fell short of God’s moral standard, you had to put in
a stinking, rotten egg. How would your bowl smell? I can tell you what mine would smell like – not
Now, we all know this is the state of things – we all do good, and we all do wrong. And our
solution to the rotten egg problem is to add more good eggs– right? But how many good eggs do you
have to add to get rid of the smell? You can’t. And here’s the point. God says, relationship with God is
not based on Sowing and Reaping—it’s a gift. 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. Galatians 2:8-10. Saved
means “set right with God.” It comes from trusting what God says he did through Jesus to pay for your
wrongs. Notice—it’s not based on your good deeds at all, it’s a gift from God. You either receive it, or
reject it.
God loves you. And he wants intimacy with you. And he wants to help you become all he made
you to be. So he says, “If you’ll let me, I’ll remove all the rotten eggs – I’ll pay the price to have them
removed from your life, past, present even future ones. And then you and I can be together from now
until forever–and as you follow my Spirit, I’ll help you grow to do the good deeds I created you to do.
See, There’s a reality to Karma (not reincarnation), but the Law of Sowing and Reaping, you can’t
mock God saying “I can do what I want, and there won’t be consequences”—even when we are forgiven
by God, right related to God forever, there’s still the Law of Sowing and Reaping.
But it is not God doing it to you, it’s you doing it to you. God warns us not to ignore the law of
Sowing and Reaping. You may be saved, but sleep around, and get pregnant—God didn’t do that, you did.
Cut ethical corners, or blow up at someone, get fired—don’t blame God. Sowing and Reaping is real even
for the Christian. But God is merciful, and that’s not the end of the story. Here’s how it goes on in the
NLT version:   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. Galatians 6:7-10


Have you accepted God’s gift of salvation from your bad Karma, your sins, your “doing
things your way” and all the rotten eggs of your life? If not, just tell him today “I want this gift of
relationship with You—I want what Jesus did to count for me, forgive me and lead me.” You can be
confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, even when you fail at Sowing and Reaping.


And for those of us who have a relationship with God through Jesus, don’t ignore the law of
Sowing and Reaping. That’s not wise. God won’t just pluck you from the fire if you keep playing with
matches in a house filled with gas fumes. But even though we may face consequences, He will help you
to survive it, stronger on the other side. If you’ve struggled with addictions, don’t keep sowing partying
and hanging with the wrong crowd, reaping slavery and destroying your life—sow habits like joining our
Heal Recovery group, learn to depend on God, and start to reap freedom. If you’ve sown habits of credit
card consumerism, don’t keep charging and reaping bankruptcy…sow by getting in our Financial Peace
class, and walk out a plan to get out of debt. There are lots of ways to sow good habits—let us help you.
If you are watching online, we want to help you connect and grow. Join me today for a Q&A online at
12:45pm CST. Just register for Online Starting Gate.  God’s Spirit wants to guide you, and we as a church
can support each other, to sow good things, and reap our best life. What action can you sow today—for
your future?

More Posts

About John and Kathy Burke

After ministry in Santa Barbara, the former Soviet Union, and Chicago, in one of the […]


Wisdom That Outlives You

“Con los años la viña da mejor vino.” (With years, the vine yields better wine) – Latin American Proverb 

We are wise when we learn from our elders and invest in our youth.


Fresh – The Prayer that Came Out of Nowhere

The prize of prayer is not health and wealth; it’s God Himself.