Karma is the Hindu and Buddhist belief that eventually, people will always get what they deserve. Karma says that a person’s fate and life after death is decided on whether or not their good has outweighed their bad in this life and supposedly in their previous ones. This view of karma is harmful to Christians and the message of the gospel.
Should Christians believe in karma? Christians should not believe in karma because the sum of people’s works does not decide whether they are saved or not. Only faith in Jesus Christ saves people from condemnation. Through God’s grace, Christians are gifted a relationship with Jesus instead of the death they deserve.
Karma may seem enchanting, and even logical, but when you look at what the Bible really says about karma, grace, and works, you can see that there’s something much greater than karma, and that’s the gospel.
What The Bible Says About Karma
As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and it is full of his Spirit and truth. When we read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, we can rejoice because we get to see more and more of God’s grace and love.
Grace and love in God’s Word transform believers and invites them into a more personal relationship with Jesus. But it’s easy to see how some believe that the Bible supports karma and that our salvation is not dependant on Jesus, but on our works.
The Bible Says We Are Justified By Faith And Works
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.James 2:24 ESV
In James, it looks like Christians should believe in karma since a person’s works justify them. But if you look closer at the context, you can see that faith leads to righteousness before God, and then the works follow.
You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness—and he was called a friend of God.’James 2:22-23 ESV
Abraham was called righteous because of his faith, not his works. Righteousness and salvation come from faith in God, and when we learn to trust him, good works follow, not the other way around.
The greatest work that we could ever do is to believe in Jesus, the one who God sent. That means that the greatest work ever is to have faith.
Jesus replied, ‘This is the work of God — that you believe in the one he has sent.’John 6:29 CSB
Karma says that our works earn us a ticket into heaven and our righteousness before God. What a sad scheme of the devil, because faith is our work, and it is grace that saves us.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10
The Bible tells us again that works stem from having faith in God because when we have faith through the grace of God, we get to have a relationship with Jesus.
When we have a relationship with Jesus, we learn how to walk by his Holy Spirit and He is the one who leads us into good works. These works are not required for us to get into heaven.
The Bible Says We Don’t Get What We Deserve
Looking at the Bible, think of the criminal on the cross and what would have happened if God operated out of the rules of karma.
As Jesus was being crucified to die for our sins, he was hung between two criminals. One of them began to mock Jesus, but the other spoke up against him.
But the other answered, rebuking him: ‘Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
And he said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’Luke 23:40-43 CSB
How could Jesus say that the criminal would be with him in paradise if his salvation was based on what he deserved? He deserved death, he had sinned and it was just for him to be crucified, yet his faith in Jesus allowed him a place in God’s kingdom.
By the grace of God, and through faith, the criminal on the cross got to be with Jesus in the paradise of heaven that day, and for the rest of eternity. But this story doesn’t make any sense to us who want to take justice into our own hands.
I know if I were Jesus suffering through a death I didn’t deserve and a man who did deserve death asked me for grace, I wouldn’t give it to him. That’s not fair. But that’s what grace is, it’s a gift we can’t earn and something we could never deserve.
On the other hand, you may be thinking though that you’ve never done anything that bad, you’ve never been a thief, a murderer, or done anything that made you guilty and worthy of execution.
You’ve been a good person, so that will get you to heaven, right? Won’t God excuse all the sin in your life and only focus on the good since he’s a loving God?
While it’s true that God loves you and is love itself, He is also holy and just. God has no part in sin. His essence is holy. When we don’t have the blood of Jesus declaring us righteous, we don’t deserve anything good.
If Christians got what they deserved, they would receive death. We are all deserving of death because of our sins, no matter how big or small they may be.
As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one…’ For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God … the wages of sin is death.Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23 ESV
Our sin separates us from God. He is holy in essence, and cannot excuse sin. To fix the problem of sin in our lives, God sent Jesus, his only Son, to live a perfect life and be sacrificed on our behalf so that by his blood, we may be washed clean of our sins.
Jesus not only died but rose from the dead so that you and I can also have a relationship with him right now.
When we believe this and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, we are saved. We are not saved if our good outweighs our bad, and karma is of no use to us at all.
The Bible Says That God’s Justice Is Different Than Karma
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
This verse makes it look like being good enough can save you, but actually, we know that if we got what we deserved, we would all be seen as evil and receive death as a punishment for our sins.
Because God is holy and loves justice, he has every right to judge humans and their actions. But thankfully for us, He is also full of steadfast love.
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.Psalm 33:5 ESV
The difference between God’s justice and karma is that mercy is factored into God’s justice towards us through Jesus. Karma doesn’t include mercy and love in the equation at all.
Because of who Jesus is and what he did for us, we don’t receive what we deserve when we believe in him. Instead, we receive life over death.
Those who have put their faith in Jesus and repent during their lives will be declared righteous, no matter how much evil they committed because Jesus’ blood has earned their salvation.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.Romans 6:14 ESV
At the same time, God’s wrath is not something to take lightly, and all sin will still be condemned, but Christians will be freed from it because of Jesus’ work on the cross.
The Bible Says That Grace Trumps Karma
Becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically make someone perfect, but when you or I mess up and sin again even as Christians, God says that his grace covers us, not our karma.
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
Karma wouldn’t dare let us boast in our weaknesses, because if that were the case, we would be doomed. We’d be destined for a horrible afterlife and have no hope to be honest about our shortcomings.
Unlike Hinduism and Buddhism, the God of the Bible knows that we are weak and incapable of doing good without Him.
Jesus made this possible and took on our weaknesses, defeated them, and then rose again. This power he now has he offers to us in our weakness, because karma isn’t enough, but his grace is.
The Bible Says That We Have A Life In Heaven, Not A Reincarnated Afterlife
In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, people get into heaven, or nirvana, by being good enough in this life and their next lives. While the two religions differ largely on some points of reincarnation, they both believe that people keep being reincarnated until eventually, they become good enough or enlightened enough to enter heaven.
For instance, according to karma, if I live an honorable and good life now, in my next life I will be reincarnated as a wealthy person or maybe even born into royalty. From there, I can work my way up to heaven.
If I live a life full of bad deeds, I will be born into a poor, despised family or even reincarnated as an animal.
Christians do not believe in reincarnation. Instead, we believe that through Jesus we are new creations.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB
We are transformed by love and transferred into the kingdom of light.
He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.Colossians 1:13 CSB
The kingdom of God is here and now in us because Jesus dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is also the kingdom of heaven, so Christians don’t rely on karma to get them to the next life. They are already saved for an eternity with God.
Karma V.S. The Gospel
Karma is wildly different from the gospel, and it’s imperative to know that as Christians. If we don’t know how to distinguish between karma and the gospel, we won’t be able to share the good news with others, especially those who hold to the beliefs that come with karma.
Karma is a lie straight from Satan, but its distorting power has no authority over God. To remind us of this, I’ve made a list of how karma and the gospel are different so that you can know that Jesus is better and live that out in your life.
- The sum of your works determines your salvation.
- You get what you deserve.
- You have multiple lives where you can earn your way to heaven, or ‘nirvana’.
The gospel of Jesus Christ says:
- You are saved by grace through faith.
- If you’re a Christian, you don’t get what you deserve. You’ll receive eternal life through Jesus’ work on the cross.
- Your good works cannot get you to eternity with Jesus.
If you’re struggling with believing this, you can know that you are not alone. God is with you, right now, wanting to help. Just ask him for faith, ask him to show you his grace.
Sometimes it can be hard to accept grace when it’s so tempting to believe the lie that you can do it all on your own. You, like me, may have even believed that lie for a long time.
The reality is Jesus loves you, and he paid the price to give you grace and rest from your endless striving to be good enough. Jesus’ story is the good news, the gospel, and it can be yours too.
Christians Should Believe In The Gospel, Not In Karma
For Christians, the Bible holds the most beautiful and life-changing story ever: the gospel. Knowing the gospel is so important, especially since believing in it is the way into the kingdom of God.
Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6 CSB
The gospel is the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life so that he could die for our sins and rise again to ascend to the right hand of God.
Jesus’ righteousness makes us blameless before God so that by his Holy Spirit, we can have a relationship with Him.
When we believe this and live by it, we know that we are saved by grace through faith, and not because of our karma.
Karma states that humans always get what they deserve, and that’s not the truth. The truth of the matter is that every single human being is guilty of sin and therefore deserving of death, but God so loved the world and you, that he sent Jesus to save those who would believe in him.
We cannot work our way to heaven, or to a better afterlife. Jesus is the only way to enter into eternity.