You’re driving along the interstate, and a vehicle cuts you off. Later, you see that same vehicle pulled over by the police. What’s going through your mind? Did you perhaps like many others say, “that’s Karma for you!” If you uttered those words or thought it, what did you mean, what is karma exactly and what did it have to do with the person who cut you off? For many, it is common practice to think of life’s events being controlled by an abstract force called Karma. What exactly is Karma? According to the Encyclopedia, Britannica Karma is, “an Indian religion and philosophy, the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence.” (Britannica) Karma has its roots in Hinduism and is a central tenet of Indian religions. The concept of Karma is that an individual’s actions in life whether good or bad will determine what happens to them in the future. For example, if you cut someone off on the interstate karma is you being pulled over. Conversely, if you provide for the needy Karma is that bonus you got at work.
Yet, the karma hypothesis goes even deeper than the present life. Hindus also believe in reincarnation, the rebirth of animal’s and people’s souls into different animals or individuals. This theory expands karma’s force to the “next life.” Asian studies professor, Patrick Olivelle put it this way: “future births and life situations will be conditioned by actions performed during one’s present life—which itself has been conditioned by the accumulated effects of actions performed in previous lives.” (Britannica) Whatever you did in your past life will determine what happens to you in your present life. Thus, karma is supposed to provide a moral motivation for individuals to live right as to avoid a bad life. Christians do not subscribe to the doctrine of karma for the simple fact that is wholly and utterly contrary to God and His Word. The origins of Karma are heathenistic; karma stems from a religion that is predicated on idolatry. Hinduism is the most polytheistic religion in the world and although they have a main god called Brahman, their faith is estimated to have false gods in the millions. The Lord’s position on adopting idolatrous religious practices is outlined in the Old and New Testaments.
“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Deuteronomy 12:29-31
What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 1Corinthians 10:19-20
Furthermore, the concept of karma is contrary to what Jesus said about life and sin. In Luke 13:1-3 Jesus explained that a sinful lifestyle is not the cause of all bad things in a person’s life. Some died by the hand of a tyrant (Luke 13:2) and others in a building accident (Luke 13:4). Was it their immorality that caused their deaths? Jesus said no, individual misfortune is not indicative of individual misconduct. The reality of the matter is simple, bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people the same is true with good things. Yes, we reap what we sow (Cf. Galatians 6:6-7) meaning our actions in life have consequences. However, those consequences are not some abstract force acting by some higher power, it is merely a matter of cause and effect. Lastly, karma is said to serve as a motivation to live moral lives. The Christian’s motivation to live right is not predicated on the promise of a life free from misfortune. Our hope is built on Christ and the promises He made to us and secured on the cross for us. No matter what happens in this life our motivation for doing right is a reciprocation of the love shown towards us (Cf. 1John 4:19 & John 14:15) and the hope for that reward that awaits us (Revelation 22:14). The Christian has no business believing in this idolatrous, Godless, and hopeless doctrine.