Karma v grace

Farmville Enterprise May 17, 2017

You will get what you deserve. What goes around comes around. They will get what is coming to them. God helps those who help themselves. Karma is a cruel mistress.

Is there any truth to these popular sentiments? What does the Bible have to say about such things?

People can find themselves frustrated when they look around and see that good people do not always receive good and bad people do not always receive bad. At times, kind hardworking folks do not prosper and self-promoting rule-benders win. We might be tempted to have the same outlook as this Psalmist. “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.” (Psalm 73:3-8) This outlook might be almost natural for those who follow the rules but face economic obstacle after obstacle.

In our day the prosperity gospel has crept into the teaching of some churches. This harmful notion is that God financially will reward the faithful. If this were true, Jesus as well as his apostles would have been rich. Sincere Christians in Third World countries would never face hunger. Back in Bible times people often considered sickness, disabilities or sterility as signs of God’s judgment. When Jesus healed a man born blind his disciples asked him, “’Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:2-3) In the Old Testament we learn of Job who was an upright and blameless God-fearing man. God allowed bad things to happen to him for a period of time, despite his holiness.

The reality is that not all good deeds are rewarded on this earth while not all bad deeds are punished. Jesus noted, “He [God the Father] causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

God’s grace is so much better than karma ever could be. We are not deserving of God’s bounteous unmerited favor and abundant forgiveness. God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12) We should not want our neighbors or ourselves to get what we truly deserve.

Galatians 6:7-9 sums up well the fact that consequences for our behaviors are often not immediate.  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

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