It’s referred to in a lot of different ways by different people, the most secular of which may be the phrase, “what goes around comes around”. It’s the notion that if we do good, good things will happen in our own lives. If we do bad, bad things happen in our lives. In America the most common expression of this principle seems to be the word “karma”. The problem for many Christians is that this word connects the principle of “what goes around comes around” to an eastern religion that we don’t believe in. Unfortunately this seems to cause some Christians to shy away from the principle itself; a reaction which may be a mistake because the idea that what goes around comes around or, “karma” for want of a better term is a very Biblical principle.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
The eastern religions and their well known teachings on karma may predate Scriptures which speak of the karmic principle. Since the ancients of the East were aware of the karmic principle before it was recorded in Scripture, it gives a false appearance to some that the eastern religions are more credible than the Bible. To some people it looks like the easterns beat God to the punch when it comes to karma.
In truth though, the notion that what goes around comes around was known throughout the ancient world by different terms. To anyone paying attention the world just seemed to work that way most of the time but nobody knows who first noticed this principle at work in the universe. The easterns, being ignorant of the One True God at that point in their history, just did what was natural for them and attributed the karmic principle to their own religion.
Despite the fact that the easterns weren’t aware of God and therefore couldn’t credit karma to Him, they still knew about this spiritual law regarding rightful behavior and the benefits it can bring into one’s own life. It’s significant that they had an understanding of this because these were not the elect, they weren’t the chosen people in possession of the laws and oracles of God. They had never read verses like:
Job 4:8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
Proverbs 26:27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
They weren’t prophets or Christians either. They had never heard Jesus Christ’s teaching:
Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
The easterns were strange and distant peoples that would have probably been dismissed by Jews and early Christians as unbelieving pagans. They didn’t know God but somehow they had a good enough sense of this spiritual law enough to give it a name, incorporate it into their religion and practice it as a way of life. The principle behind karma worked observably in their own lives. Obviously then, the benefits of following God’s spiritual laws were available for these people even though they didn’t know of, or believe in God. Unbelievers were not excluded. If this particular spiritual law is so strong that unbelievers can sense it and embrace it, and benefit from it, why is it not all the more embraced by Christian believers?
Part of the reason may be our own incorrect tendency to associate the karmic principle with the eastern religions. We fail to assert God’s ownership of karma even though we know that all spiritual laws originate from God.
Another problem for some Christians is that the karmic principle involves a type of spiritual reward for doing good. If we are good to others, we will receive goodness back in our own lives, either here on earth, in the afterlife or both. This gives us a little bit of control of our afterlife and there are some who believe this contradicts the Biblical truth that salvation is a free gift. Salvation truly is free as plainly stated in:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
But the idea that our actions here and now on earth affect our afterlife in heaven later on is also Biblically true as stated in:
Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
Jesus Christ also gives other karmic sounding teachings on how our behavior now on earth affects our life later in heaven:
Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
If we believe the Bible we can’t ignore certain verses in preference only of verses that support what we want to believe or what we were taught. The verses which support salvation as a free gift are true and so are verses which support the notion that behaviour on earth effects live in heaven. If there appears to be a contradiction, it’s a problem with our understanding of Scripture, not the Scripture itself. Salvation is a free gift but based on Scripture, we can apparently still do things after being saved that affect the type of existence we have later on earth and in heaven. Any perceived contradiction between those two verses is based on an un-Biblical human presumption that our afterlife cannot be made even the slightest bit greater by following the instructions of our Saviour.
Salvation is a free gift but it is a gift that our God wants us to do something with. God hard wired the cosmos with a causality law that begets good results when good actions are applied, and bad results when bad actions are applied. In so doing He has made bad actions self defeating and good actions self expansive. This is how His kingdom is destined by spiritual law to ultimately defeat all evil. God fixed it so that evil will bring evil back unto itself, and good will bring good unto itself. This is an important enough law that God gave all of us, unbelievers included, an underlying sense of it so that consciously or subconsciously, we would act accordingly.
To include karma in a religion that excluded God was a mistake of the ancient easterns but that doesn’t mean the idea behind karma is wrong. The idea behind “karma”, for want of a better term, is clearly Biblical. Christians might be better able to accept the karmic principle if we stop thinking of it in terms of eastern religion. In truth is is a divine law, ordained by God at the founding of the cosmos. But it is also an opportunity given to us by God to unleash an ongoing cycle of divine power or energy onto our fallen realm. It is beneficial to us personally to do so, and beneficial to the world at large. It is one more small way which God gives us, if we choose it, to further His kingdom on earth.
2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.