11/12/18 Priyesh (video HERE)
Do you believe in karma or blessing?
Priyesh, a graduate student, told me about his belief in karma, that the sum of his actions in this life will decide his fate in future lives. He grew up in a Hindu family in India, and continues to believe in Hinduism.
This belief in Karma isn’t limited to eastern religions, however. The word might have its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, but the idea that one’s eternal fate depends on a sort of balance scale of our good and bad deeds in this life is pretty much universal. Reward and punishment for one’s behavior is, after all, a key characteristic of our human relationships, employment, our economy, our reputations – why not attribute it to God and eternity as well?
Because it’s not biblical.
Instead of karma, the Bible speaks of being “blessed”. There is a difference.
In karma, one receives rewards impersonally, as the result of one’s good works and deeds. God’s judgement and sovereignty are taken out of the picture, and rewards could be said to be one’s “due” for good behavior. People try to remain humble, however, because a show of conceit could downgrade one’s karma.
The many biblical references to “blessing” or being blessed put the focus on God’s actions, not our own. God often chooses to reward good behavior and to punish bad behavior, but He does this according to His own wisdom and sovereign will. There is nothing automatic about it.
And because we start out as condemned sinners, God doesn’t owe us anything but punishment, so that any blessing we receive from God is never a payment He owes us but an act of grace by which He blesses us.
A well-known passage from the Old Testament, and quoted in the New Testament speaks to this. Romans 3 reads
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
This is the bad news of the Gospel, which puts the good news that we can be saved in context. Even on our best days, our “karma” can’t save us. Our relatively good actions can’t cancel our debt of sin because the good we do is only what is expected of us. We should use our God-given health, time, energy and resources in service to God. When we do what we ought, we aren’t being “good”, we are simply being the humans God created us to be.
In the economy of karma, we are bankrupt! But in God’s economy of blessing, salvation is a gift we receive, not a reward to be earned.
PS Thanks to Priyesh for allowing me to record our conversation, which can be seen at