5/6/17 Sheldon about 45
“What goes around comes around” seems to be the prevailing wisdom in the Chicago southside neighborhood where I live. It’s a way of saying you get what you deserve in life, for better or worse, or you automatically reap what you sow. It’s similar to the eastern concept of “karma”. It goes beyond the logical connection of good or bad results for good or bad behavior. It implies some sort of supernatural force that keeps track of the good or bad we do, and rewards or punishes accordingly.
But is it biblical? A man named Sheldon saw no problem with describing his beliefs as “karma”, even though later in our street corner conversation he told me about the church he attends and its emphasis on teaching from the Bible. After we talked further I think I found out the root of the problem. His basic view of God, a sort of lens which colors everything else he believes from the Bible, is that God is more like an impersonal force which must automatically reward or punish behavior.
This view of God might be favored by immature people who want instant gratification for their good behavior or a simple answer for their misfortunes. It’s the very childish and self-centered idea that God always quickly rewards or punishes based on how we act, as if our behavior alone is the deciding factor behind the reward or punishment. It circumvents God’s perfect wisdom and makes Him obligated to act consistently in response to our choices.
But the Bible says “… as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you”. This image of God as a loving father “disciplining” his children is very different from the automatic response of karma. I didn’t get around to asking Sheldon about his own experiences with his earthly father, or whether he has his own children, but he knew enough about parenting to know that parents don’t always choose to reward or punish every behavioral decision of their children. Their ultimate goal is that their children will become responsible adults themselves, not only choosing right behavior but also choosing it for the right reasons. And the right reasons don’t involve reward or punishment. These are just the temporary scaffolding that parents – and God – use to build decent human beings who make right choices for better reasons like their love for God, their love for others, their gratitude, or their sincere desire to glorify God and His Kingdom.
Really, carried to its logical conclusion, Karma is the last thing we should want. We don’t want to get what we deserve, or to reap what we sow. Why? Because the good we ought to do can’t pay for or outweigh the bad things we ought not to have done. We don’t deserve the reward of heaven, but rather the punishment of hell. Fortunately, the rewards and punishments God gives as part of his wise discipline of his children happens in this life, not the next. Those who trust Jesus are adopted into God’s family, and His program of discipline and training us as his adopted children begins. And part of this training teaches us to reject this superstitious belief in karma.