Is Karma Biblical?

Karma is the belief in eastern religions that what a person does influences our quality of life and future lives. Is this viewpoint of karma biblical? Three biblical passages have sometimes been used to justify this connection.

First, some have associated karma with the Bible’s “golden rule” found in Matthew 7:12 (also Luke 6:31) where Jesus taught to, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

However, the context of this teaching states this golden rule is a fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. There is no mention of receiving punishment or blessing to match our treatment of others. Instead, believers are called to treat people with love regardless of the response by others.

Second, others have suggested karma is somehow associated with the Old Testament judicial command of an “eye for an eye.”

Yet this phrase deals with how people were judged under the Mosaic Law. In contrast, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that believers are to instead go the “extra mile” to show His love (Matthew 5:38-42).

A third biblical passage some have attempted to connect with the eastern concept of karma is the idea of reaping and sowing. For example, Galatians 6:7 states, “A man reaps what he sows.”

 This verse’s context, however, emphasizes that the person who works to please himself or herself will reap destruction, while those who seek to please the Spirit of God will reap eternal life. This relates to faith in Christ for salvation, not living to receive good or bad karma in this life.

In all three of these passages, karma is uniquely different from the Bible’s teachings. In contrast, we are commanded in Scripture to show unconditional love to others, just as Christ has loved us. We may or may not receive a reward in this life. Our only goal must be to please the Lord, allowing Him to determine what blessings may or may not come as a result.

Further, Scripture instead teaches those who live right will endure hardship, not karma. 2 Timothy 3:12 notes “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Jesus serves as the ultimate example of one who lives right, yet was mistreated by others. Philippians 2:8 shares, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Karma may sound or feel right our culture, but the Bible’s truth is different. Christ’s calling is higher—a challenge to unconditional love regardless of circumstances or rewards.

Of great importance, karma also emphasizes that actions in past lives and the present will impact our future lives. The Bible teaches something much different. We live once, and then spend eternity with Christ or apart from Him. We do not experience multiple reincarnated lives on earth, but can enjoy eternity with God after this life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

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Bio

Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.

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