Christian Karma

A few years ago the My Name is Earl TV show resurfaced the old Eastern religion concept of karma. The basic idea of karma is embodied by the phrase "what goes around comes around". According to the wiki:
Through the law of karma, the effects of all deeds actively create past, present, and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to him/her and others.
The bible deals with this idea of cause and effect a bit different in the sixth chapter of Galatians when it says:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Now some take this scripture and skew it into a Christian-like karma taking the idea of sowing and reaping to formula-like proportions. I know many sincere believers who buy into it lock, stock and barrel. Oral Roberts made a lot of money 30 years ago or so when he sold this idea and called it "Seed Faith". The fallacy I see in this karma like concept of faith is three fold:
  1. It embodies the notion that God always responds in formulaic fashion to our actions and giving.
  2. It creates a carnality in giving and causes people who embrace it to feel that they earned blessings.
  3. It causes people who experience hardship to blame themselves.. much like the thinking that Job and his friends embraced.
From my perspective these karma-like concepts negate the idea of grace and cause actions to be the products of faith instead of the byproducts of faith. The scripture in Galations is a simple one that simply says that when we respond to the Holy Spirit we sow eternal seeds and when we respond to our flesh we sow temporal seeds. That scripture has nothing to do with Christian karma.

The good news of the Christian gospel is that we do not get what we deserve. We have escaped from judgment by the blood of Christ. It is not karma that causes us to prosper.. it is the Holy Spirit.. and sometimes "prospering" has little to do with the temporal aspects of life :)


  1. Good post, KB!

    If you hadn't noticed from my Another Voice blog posts, I am kinda battling a bit of "works" mentality that has crept into my faith. I've also been studying some teachings about health, diet and fasting that focus on this particular scripture and could not put my finger on what it is that makes me uncomfortable about the teaching. It seems very reasonable and sensible - but the spiritual twist they put on it had me wondering.

    Anyway, I think you're sending me the right direction, again!

  2. Excellent definition of Karma and what the Good News really is.
    My heart felt light reading this. I needed this, thank you.

  3. Yes...thank GOD we do not get what we deserve.

  4. Hmmm, karma (judgement) for the unsaved, grace for the saved? Or am I putting it much too simply?

    Anyway, good spiritual food to chew on.

    Thanks! :)

  5. I see a variant of this in my own church where, whenever things go wrong, people start sifting through their lives for a "cause". Sometimes they're shocked when I suggest that it doesn't always work that way, that sometimes God's purposes in our lives are beyond our understanding.

    There's a lingering belief that we can somehow control our circumstances, and bring about good in our lives by fixing ourselves up. When you've seen people really tie themselves inknots trying to work out what they've done to cause a particular misfortune, you realise how freeing grace really is.

  6. Thanks All for the feedback.

    Grace is a difficult aspect of the faith for many 'self-made' people to accept. Christian karma is so much easier to embrace for some folks.

  7. But remember Buddhists don't need a doctrine of grace because they have no role for a deity.

  8. I contend that we live in a fallen world and there are natural consequences to our actions. I guess I'm one who doesn't think that every single moment of our lives is orchestrated by God; I'm sure He knows what's happening, but rather we do have free will and we make our own choices: You build a city below sea level, you might get flooded and so on.
    If I mess up, I certainly consider what I did wrong--and pray for guidance to correct it.
    Maybe I'm missing the point here.

  9. "The good news of the Christian gospel is that we do not get what we deserve. We have escaped from judgment by the blood of Christ"

    I was oversimplifying. I guess I'm a heretic at heart. I do believe that, on this earth, if you constantly put out bad stuff, you will naturally draw bad back to you.
    You're saying we escape judgment by the blood of Christ, but that's not what many have told me that the end times and the book of Revelation are all about.

    "The scripture in Galations is a simple one that simply says that when we respond to the Holy Spirit we sow eternal seeds and when we respond to our flesh we sow temporal seeds."
    The problem is (and the "karmaic" result is), most of us--even Christians--live in that temporal seed pack most of the time--and therefore, we do reap what we sow here on earth.

  10. "we do reap what we sow here on earth"

    That is often true Karen but not all of the time. Job's friends held a similar type of karma thinking and sought to blame Job for his trials. Many well meaning Christians embrace a similar thinking and look for sin and unbelief when something goes wrong.

    The fact of the matter is that we don't always know what is going on and it is wrong to use karma type thinking to figure it out.

  11. I always look at Job differently because God specifically let the enemy loose on him (which upsets me terribly!). And, I don't consider that God is "punishing" people when they do wrong.

    So, in the verse, "for whatever one sows, that will he also reap" you take that to mean on a strictly heavenly basis?

  12. "for whatever one sows, that will he also reap"

    Lets propose a few sowing/reaping formulas Karen..

    ++If one overeats and/or smokes and doesn't take care of their bodies they will have health problems. I know people that do that stuff and are fairly healthy. Conversely I know people who take care of themselves and have problems because of genetics and other unknown reasons.

    ++A child born with health issues.. do you think that the parents are always to blame?

    ++What about the hard working employee who is faithful to his employer and is laid off because of economic downturn. Is he to blame for being laid off?

    Hope you get the sense of what I am getting at.

    In the context of sowing and reaping, what do you think it means when the verse says:

    "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

  13. Bad stuff happens in the world, very often through no fault of the receiver of bad.
    Maybe I'm not making myself clear (wouldn't be the first time!! ;-D)
    I'll ask again, because you mentioned it in your post. In the verse, "for whatever one sows, that will he also reap" you're take that to mean on a strictly heavenly or spiritual basis?

  14. I am only saying that, in context, the passage indicates that sowing and reaping are painted as sowing to the flesh reaps temporal/corruption and sowing to the Spirit reaps eternal/spiritual life.

    I don't see a temporal Christian karma in the passage at all.

    Do you disagree? Do you see karma in the passage? What do you make of the passage?

  15. I don't know what to make of it, Bob.
    Certainly bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.
    You said, "sowing to the flesh reaps temporal/corruption and sowing to the Spirit reaps eternal/spiritual life.
    I don't see a temporal Christian karma in the passage at all."

    Well, that is kind of a karma, if sowing to the flesh yields temporal/corruption. That says, if you do something bad, bad comes back to you.

    Bottom line, I don't know! I'm not trying to be argumentative...just wrap around what you were saying. If the verse is strictly about heavenly things, then that's kind of scary because we all are mired in the flesh most of the time.
    If it's not just about heavenly, spiritual reaping, then I do see where people get the "what goes around, comes around" mentality.

  16. My main concern Karen is how people try to use this sowing and reaping stuff to make formulas for living.. if you do this then this will happen.. but if you do this then that will happen.

    Preachers use ideas like this to tell people that if they sow a tithe then they will reap financial blessings. I just don't think that it is that simple.

  17. I agree...lots of people often use lots (or most) of scripture to define who they are in Christ, instead of searching for and praying and engaging Him first and foremost.
    Yes, the "blessing" ministries; Jabez; name it, claim it; prosperity ministries. All are convoluted to get something for giving something.
    I still don't know how to take that scripture. Guess I'll pray on it! :-D

  18. Hey, I just came back to read the rest of the conversation! I think I see the world as fallen in the same way Karen does, and therefore subject to a sort of consequential justice administered by the natural order God established with creation. So even though I am saved, I still live in this fallen world and subject to it. However, to me, the concept of "karma" has always seemed a spiritual reward/retribution issue controlled by how I live my life - by my works. When one sows in this life, we sow to both the temporal and the spiritual. In my opinion, spiritual seed is only sown once and it grows eternal, but we are constantly sowing short-lived crops to the temporal. We must. That spiritual crop is indestructable, the crop is stronger than it's environment. The temporal crops can be predictable - you plant an appleseed, you get apples - but those crops are susceptable to the environment - water, nourishment, sunlight, storms, etc. So you may plant the right seeds, but a hurricane comes along at no fault of your own and the crop is uprooted. Or, in the same way, the sun shines just enough and the rain comes frequently enough and through no fault of your own the crop is plentiful.

    I don't think that you can tie those spiritual seeds, good or bad, to the temporal crop. The teachings of Christ, if you think about it are still temporal - things you do in this life. They are the proper seeds to sow, but still subject to the environment. But the seed of salvation isn't even a crop we plant ourselves - it was planted for us in the sacrifice of Christ.

    Do I make any sense, or am I taking this metaphor too far?...


  19. Missy, you said it very well, I think. You always have an interesting and enlightening take on things.
    The verse clearly says that if we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption. I think that, as you said, with your appleseed analogy, that things of this earth are affected by this earth. Good things happen to bad folk, and vice versa.
    I do believe that those who intentionally do bad, do indeed reap "corruption" perhaps not in the tangible things of life, but in their spirit. They are resentful, angry, rebellious, selfish.
    That's a harsh way to live on this earth--they are reaping that sadness that they put out there.
    I sent Galatians 6:9, ironically, this week to a fellow special ed teacher at the school that I work from time to time. She emailed back that it was timely and uplifting.
    My Concordant Literal translates this verse as such:
    "Now we may not be despondent (in) ideal doing, for (in) due season we shall be reaping, (if we do) not faint." Parentheses for words added.
    I agree that this speaks to the spiritual reward; but that we, on earth, can bring ill upon ourselves and our spirit if we so choose by our actions.
    I'm rambling, but Jesus did indeed say that our works here on earth matter, didn't He?

  20. Great thoughts Missy and Karen. I am not opposed to the cause and effect aspects that we see so often in our lives and the lives of others. I am just opposed to a formulaic approach to it. Sometimes we reap the bad seeds (i.e. the current economic crisis) that others sow.

    The other aspect of this principle that I often see is the idea that I always deserve to reap when I sow. So often, in the natural, seeds do not grow because of extremes in the weather and other factors.. life is simply not an equation.

    So to wrap it up I think that there is a general principle at work but trying to apply the principle to discern life's happenings is often just chasing after the wind :)


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