Karma and the Gospel

Opening Thoughts: Karma Isn’t the Gospel; so in the rare chance that you just dropped in from another planet and you haven’t the slightest idea what Karma is nor what it means, here’s a brief summary taken from Wikipedia: “In Buddhism, karma (Pāli kamma) is strictly distinguished from vipāka, meaning “fruit” or “result”. Karma is categorized within the group or groups of cause (Pāli hetu) in the chain of cause and effect, where it comprises the elements of “volitional activities” (Pali sankhara) and “action” (Pali bhava). Any action is understood as creating “seeds” in the mind that will sprout into the appropriate result (Pāli vipaka) when met with the right conditions. Most types of karmas, with good or bad results, will keep one within the wheel of samsāra, while others will liberate one to nirvāna“.

The main thing I want you to take notice of is the bizarre concept of the seed that is involved, this seed represents the person’s actions, whether they be good or bad directly affects the results like a chain reaction of sorts. Case in point, if you commit a bad sin you will suffer in this life and the life to come when you are reincarnated. Today even in some circles of the “Professed Christian Faith” you will find believers of this dangerous message, minus the bit about reincarnation. Here’s how it will go, “If you lack healing in your body or maybe you’re struggling in your finances, this is directly connected to what you have done, how much faith you have, how you think or the lack thereof”. Many believe that if tragedy happens to you it’s often of your own doing on some level, a lack of faith or some sort of sin. The “Reaping What You Sow” text won’t do to justify this sort of thinking either as it is not in reference to this life, but rather the life to come. Sin will reap death and faith in Christ will reap everlasting life. Enough from me, let’s dive in and see what Jesus has to say about all this.

Luke 13:1-5 ESV .. There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Physical Suffering as a Result of our Sin: So is our direct earthly sufferings, sickness, persecution, other physical suffering, or even tragic deaths a result of our sin? To this I say, “Yes and No”. Yes, because the Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death, so sin does eventually bring forth the fruit of death (James 1:14-15), but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. “Then desire, when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” So, as we can plainly see, yes sin does produce death in everyone’s lives. But what about sickness? Does sin bring about sickness in our lives? Well, yes in a sense, because we live in a fallen world and our natural bodies have been corrupted by the seed of sin, so therefore they are still subject to the consequences of sin. The text we are about to study will explain why, in spite of the reasons I’ve just mentioned for sin being the result of our suffering, it is also not the end of the discussion.

Over the past several weeks as I have gone through Luke 12 we’ve seen Jesus directly speaking to the disciples and crowds, both warning them about self righteousness and also confronting them on issues of sin and their lack of discernment to see the signs of the times. Now we flow right into Luke chapter 13 and we see as someone directly confronts Jesus about the Galileans who Pilot had killed as they were offering sacrifice to God, here’s the text for a refresher:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”.

The topic of the Galileans was clearly brought up to justify themselves from the harsh tone that Jesus had been using on them. Having called them hypocrites Jesus shows how unimpressed He was with their self-righteousness.  They respond by making an argument in order to position themselves a little higher than the Galileans in question, who in their eyes must have done something very sinful to have deserved being killed in such a manner. Just for reference, Pilot was notorious for crucifixions, unjust executions, and killing Jews for worshiping their God. He was a pagan idolater, and hated the one true God, he needed no reason to kill.

Jesus Brings it Back to YOU: Jesus wasn’t about the blame game. He knows the beginning from the end and that someday every one of these people would be standing in front of HIM alone as KING, JUDGE, and RULER. They wouldn’t be there with the Galileans that had died, they wouldn’t be there with their buddies from the crowd, their church or their care-group, they would be standing before Him all by themselves, giving an account for no one but themselves.

Jesus answers their question with an emphatic “NO” and by that He clears the air on the accusation that these Galileans were not being judged by their death based on something specific that they had done. And then He turns a full circle and brings the hammer down even harder on the head of self-righteousness, by saying “I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.

The fact is we’re all in big trouble without placing our faith in Jesus Christ alone, trusting Him and obeying His call to die. It’s so easy to play the good guy, I see it in my kids all the time, when one get’s in trouble for not eating, the other one will say, “YUM, THIS FOOD IS GOOD.” I know my kids well enough to say that they are trying to shine in light of the other rascal’s failure. This crowd was attempting to turn Jesus eyes off of themselves and have Him join them in their judgement of others, who in this case where already dead.  Oh, how I pray that God will cleanse me of this horrific offense, one that I have participated in many times myself. If you get nothing else out of this post get this, today is the day when you need to look inside your own closet and see what’s ugly, what’s been stored and what you need to trash. Let God’s word examine your life to see if you possess genuine faith or if you have simply been building yourself up off of others assumed failures in order that you might appear good in God’s eyes. Today is the day to admit that you are in big trouble because of your sin, get down on your knees at the foot of the cross and beg for undeserved mercy. You will get it!

Conclusion: Karma has nothing to do with the Gospel, you are a sinner and I am a sinner, we’re all guilty and we’re all going to die. Suggesting that someone is sick as a result of their sin or that someone has even died as a result of their sin is a grave error on our part and a last ditch effort to claim our own goodness, or even more subtle, to be puffed up with the appearance that we have more faith than others. Whatever the case may be, God is long-suffering and both you and I can be thankful that He has given us yet another day to to a look at ourselves and examine our lives in accordance to His Word. One more day to be sanctified and one more day to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Today is the day of Salvation, so, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on him while He is near”. His Word assures us that  He will answer.

Grace & Peace, Shane Martin
Preparing the Way

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