Defend The Faith Ministry

Can Christians Believe in Karma?

I was asked an interesting question at the end of a lecture I was giving several weeks ago. A person was wondering if Christians should believe in karma. While karma might be a Hindu term, the concept permeates a lot more than just Hindu temples and meditation. We all tend to gravitate toward the idea that you get what you give. If you do bad things, then bad things should happen to you. If you do good things, then good things should happen to you. How can that be a bad thing to believe in? I mean, even Galatians 6:7 states, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

So is it ok for a Christian to believe in karma?

I think we need to determine what is meant by karma. In the true Hindu or even Buddhist mindset, karma is the accumulation of all of one’s actions – either good or bad – to determine the proper destination for reincarnation. If one’s good actions outweigh their bad, then reincarnation will be to an improved state of being. If one’s bad actions outweigh their good, then reincarnation will be to a lower and worse state of being. In a more casual and popular view of it, karma is what makes bad come to you if you do bad things and good come to you if you do good things.

Both the Eastern religion mindset for reincarnation and the casual view of karma presuppose some force in the universe that is directing these things. Even when a new spiritualist describes it as sending out good vibes into the universe to receive good from the universe, it implies the “universe” is acting in some way. In other words, if bad things come to bad people, something must be making those bad things happen. When karma is “responsible” paying back evil for evil, karma must be something capable of doling out evil things. It necessitates that “karma” must be some sentient entity directing all things.

Furthermore, this sentient force of karma must know all things. It must be aware of the good and bad things that everyone has been up to. Yet, how does it know which things are good and bad? Therefore, this karmic force must also be able to make moral judgments. There must be some basis by which it is determining what things are “good” and what things are “evil.”

Therefore, when we say “karma” is going to pay back someone for their wicked ways, the implication is that we are calling on some sentient entity that can know one’s actions, judge those actions as either good or evil, and have the power to direct other circumstances in this person’s life to make them either beneficial or harmful to that person.

Is this what Christians should believe in?

The short answer is no. Christians do believe there is a sentient being that is aware of all our actions, can morally judge them as good or evil, and has the power to direct circumstances for either our benefit or our harm. But we don’t identify this as karma, some blind force of the universe. We identify this as God. Calling this karma is demeaning and belittling to the actual true God and creator of the universe. 

God knows our actions and knows whether our actions are good or evil (although even our “righteous deeds are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6). God is almighty and sovereign to direct all circumstances to either bring us blessings or to allow us suffering.

This is what Christians should believe in, not karma.

What is it then about the concept of karma that seems appealing to all, regardless of religious affiliation? I think what it really illustrates is our deep desire for justice. We long for evil to be punished and good to be rewarded. In fact, this desire for justice is one of the very proofs that a real, moral, and just God must exist. Justice is not a concept that mankind invented, nor one that would have ever given us an evolutionary advantage. We desire this justice because we are made in the image of a just and good God.

Therefore, since we desire justice and want there to be something directing circumstances to either reward good or punish evil, we expect that to be the outcome in all things. We expect that when someone does bad, then bad things befall them; and when someone does good, good things happen. The reverse of that is true as well. We expect that when bad things happen it is a result of some wicked deed; and when good things happen, it must be because of someone’s moral goodness.

However, the Bible reminds us again and again this is not the case. Job was described as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Yet God allowed such tragedy and suffering in his life, much to the confusion of his wife and friends. They all assumed that when bad things happened, it was because of some secret, heinous sin.

In John 9, the disciples make the same mistake in thinking. They encounter a man who had been blind since birth and ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They assumed this man’s blindness was due to sin – and since he was blind since birth, it must be the sins of the parents.

Jesus, however, dismisses this idea altogether. He replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” This was baffling to them at the time as much as it baffles us today. A man’s suffering had nothing to do with his level of sinfulness.

Jesus reiterates this point in Matthew 5 when He says, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” And in Luke 13 Jesus talks about the Galileans who were murdered by the Romans while in the temple making sacrifices and about those on who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them. He says they were no worse sinners than anyone else when those tragic events unfolded.

Jesus dispels the idea that bad things are always the result of bad living. Sometimes bad things happen so that the works of God would be revealed, as Jesus said about the blind man. When we are in those times we would do well to remember the words of Joseph to his brothers who had sold him into slavery years before, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” 

Sometimes evil seems to prosper and good men seem to suffer. Karma has no explanation for that. Where does karma fit in with innocent suffering? Where does karma fit in when evil goes unpunished? Karma can’t have a higher purpose for our circumstances. But a sovereign God can. As we are told in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

However, the Bible does state clearly that God allows us the consequences of our choices. In Romans 1, Paul states, “God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”

In other words, there are definitely times that we will reap what we sow. As Galatians 6 continues to say, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” When we desire to live in the flesh, a life separated from God, then that is what we will gain – a life separated from God and the consequences of our actions.

Though we all desire for evil to come to those who have done evil, we must trust God’s word when it says in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” 

God is sovereign. God is just. And God is good. We may never understand how those will play out in our lives and the lives of those around us, whether evil is immediately punished or not. Regardless, we should be grateful that our eternal destiny is not based on the moral value of our works – because they could never measure up. Thankfully we have a Savior who has taken on the punishment for all of our evil ways.

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7 thoughts on “Can Christians Believe in Karma?”

  1. Gordon Sterling

    Well, what about Santa Claus? What about Santa and his nauty and nice list?
    On a serious note, we scream for justice when we feel we have been wronged but when we do wrong we beg for mercy. I don’t want God’s justice because as a Christian I know how short I fall from God’s righteous standard. There are none righteous. I pray for God’s mercy.

  2. God’s Perfect Justice takes place in one of two places: at the Cross or in Hell. If we are covered by the Blood of Christ, then our sins are borne by Christ on the Cross. In this case, we do NOT get the Hell that we deserve. Hallelujah! However, for the many more people who are uncovered by the Blood of Christ, God’s Perfect Justice takes place in Hell. They get EXACTLY what they deserve – worse sinners receiving a worse punishment in Hell, and vice versa.

    Consider Galatians 6:7 in the context of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She championed the ultra-barbaric practice of partial birth abortion (PBA) in her lifetime. (Look it up sometime to see how evil she was.)
    There is zero evidence that she ever repented of her wickedness and gave her life to Yeshua, and there is much evidence to the contrary, up to her last words. Assuming that to be the case, what is some of her experience in Hell like? Well, she championed PBA, and Galatians 6:7 says that she is now on the receiving end of PBA. She sowed PBA, and other forms of abortion, in this lifetime, so she is now reaping PBA and other forms of abortion. And that seems perfectly just: many babies were tortured to death using this barbaric practice, and other abominable practices, so she SHOULD get to experience it in Hell. Likewise, Hitler is surely experiencing all of the different types of torture and murder that he approved. It would be incredibly unjust otherwise for God’s Eternal enemies to “get away with it.”

    Those who were not as monstrous as RBG or Hitler will not experience nearly the same level of torture, or even torment, that they inflicted on others. But, it will still be bad, as all of God’s blessings are removed in Hell. Look at the first two phrases in Galatians 6:7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” This is God’s Way of letting us know that we aren’t going to get away with ANYTHING wicked that we do UNLESS we throw ourselves on the Mercy of the Christ. So, our family and friends who support abortion and sodomy and transgendering children, all wicked forms of child abuse, and who think it’s just a fun game, and that they can have any opinion that they want to while CLAIMING to follow Chirst, are in for one Hell (literally) of a shock. God’s not messing around. Hell is “karma” on steroids, and it never ends.

  3. I was the one who asked this question at the meeting. It’s a really interesting point worth thinking about. I’m glad to have a much better understanding. Rather than tell someone “You’ll be the victim of karma,” we should say “God’ll get you for that.” 🙂

    1. It was a very good question! We tend to casually refer to karma so I thought it was good to consider how we should actually think about that concept. And yes, God’s judgment is what we should be concerned over but God enacts His judgment in His way and in His time. We should maybe remind people who are His followers that we are to live to honor God. And we should encourage those who are not His followers that we will all stand before Him at the end of this life to be judged for what we’ve done, which should open our eyes for our need for a savior.

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