Karma is not a biblical idea. Karma is the core idea of many eastern religions. Karma is the idea that you reap what you sow. Doing good is the cause of good things happening to you, and doing bad is the cause of bad things happening to you. This thought is used in two ways. Originally, it mainly referred to good and bad deeds resulting in a good or bad new reincarnation (next life). Nowadays, especially when western people use the word ‘karma’, it often refers to good or bad things happening to you in this life because of something you did earlier in your life. Both ways of using the word ‘karma’ are not biblical.
You only live once
The thought that actions now will result in being reborn in a good or bad life later on, is not biblical because the Bible teaches we only live once, after which God judges us (Hebrews 9:27). This is the fundamental difference between the Christian faith and eastern religions. In eastern religions everything goes round and round and round. There is no beginning and no end to world history. But Christians profess that God has created the earth and our lives; and that He in the end will create a new earth. In between those two moments, all people live once. They get the opportunity once to get to know God. Everyone who has faith in Him will have eternal life on the new earth. This is what gives our lives importance and purpose, which is lacking when you believe in karma.
You reap what you sow?
The other use of the word karma, that you reap what you sow in this life, seems to be closer to what the Bible teaches. In Galatians 6:7 we even read “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap“. On first sight, that looks like karma. However, there are important differences.
- The Bible teaches it is not an impersonal force of cause and effect, but a personal God who rewards and punishes.
- The Bible teaches that ‘what you sow is what you reap’ is not always true in this life. It may only become true at the judgment after death.
- Karma is inescapable. But because God is a person, He can forgive. We do not need to carry the consequences of our sins if we trust in Jesus. This in the end is the most important difference. Karma is destiny. But God is gracious to us through Jesus Christ.
Karma tells us: what you have done determines what you will be. God tells us: “That is true – unless you believe in Jesus. If you believe, what Jesus has done determines what you will be.” We are all facing that choice: do we want karma, or do we want the Gospel?