The Difference Between Grace and Karma

Featured Writer: Alia Joy

I recently got a fortune cookie that said, “You will enhance your karma by engaging in various charitable activities.”  I ate my cookie and thought about this mass produced commercial prophecy.  Karma is a buzz word that our culture tosses around when one is slighted, annoyed, or hurt. They’ll get what’s coming to them, karma.

Most of the people using it don’t actually believe that if they cut someone off in traffic or gossip about their friends they’re going to end up as an ant or cockroach in their next life. Rather, they intrinsically sense that there is some order or justice underlying this world and what goes around comes around.

Of course, they miss the point. When they say karma they are unknowingly talking about God’s law. This concept of reaping and sowing is a biblical one. If we sow to the flesh, we reap the harvest of consequences but if we sow to the spirit, we will reap accordingly. No one can argue that there are consequences to our actions.

In Romans 2:14-15 the Bible explains that God’s law is written on the hearts of men. That even if they don’t put faith in God, their conscience bears witness that there is a cause and effect, a right and wrong.

Karma has been a great motivator among unbelievers for social justice. Like my cookie said, if I engage in charitable activities and work to be a good person then I will have good karma. So people put canned goods into the food drive, they contribute to good causes, maybe they even volunteer their time, or rally around an injustice to raise awareness. None of these things is wrong in itself.

We should care about injustice and the needs of our fellow man. God does, and He commands us, as believers, to as well. I would argue that we should care more about these issues than anyone else.   But we can miss the point so easily.

We can turn our service into something we do to earn favor with God. People begin to believe that their righteousness and salvation can be found in service or being a good person. We can turn our good works into a reward system. If we just work harder, do more, act better, we will be accepted. We become moralistic, legalistic, and spirit deadened. It is a lie.

This is where God’s sense of justice differs from social justice. In Gods economy we can never be justified by our works. We will never feed enough poor, donate enough money, clothe enough orphans, or immunize enough babies for us to be righteous before God. None of our charitable activities can make up for the fact that even with the best of intentions, we can never be justified. Where karma and this world’s social justice says just do more and be better, God’s sense of justice says you can never be enough.  Which would seem pretty hopeless if that were the end of it. But it’s not.

God offers us scandalous grace.  We dwell in the muck like swine. We have nothing to offer, we’ve squandered our souls in sin. We come filthy, starved, world-wounded. But His grace lifts us out. He washes us clean. He gives us new hearts to love Him. He dresses us in His righteousness.  He redeems us as sons and daughters.  He wills us to do good works because of our passionate love for Him and His glory. We cry out against injustice in this world because our new hearts beat within our makers and He cares. We begin to sow to our new spirit. This offensive grace thwarts Karma not by giving us what we have coming to us, death, but by offering the prodigal a place at His table when all he really deserves is the pig trough.

Alia is a  grace saved, much forgiven, wife to Josh, and home school momma to 3 beautiful children. She would consider herself a  coffee dependent, writer of random musings at Narrow Paths to Higher Places, and attempter of all things crafty. She has a heart to see God glorified in the seemingly mundane and to allow the trials of her life to point to His infinite grace.

image via Nina Matthews Photography

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6 Responses to “The Difference Between Grace and Karma”

  1. March 24, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I definitely agree. Most Christians actually go by this idea of ‘karma’ but God Himself defied that by sending Jesus to die for us.

  2. March 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I like! I like! Well done Alia. You nailed it.

  3. March 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Needed this reminder today, Alia! Gorgeous words, as always.

  4. Stacey S.
    March 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    “His grace lifts us out”
    Appreciate your words today!
    Needed this so much!


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