The Upside of Karma Sucks, Too

All of our world religions have a concept of Karma. Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and others, including "The Secret" have this idea that what goes around comes around. "The Secret" takes this idea and puts it on steroids, doesn't it?

The concept that "The Universe" is obligated to respond to your energy, be it positive of negative is just a new way of saying what goes around comes around. It just has a splash of prosperity gospel thrown in to make it extra appealing, and to remind us that it's really all about our satisfaction and joy.

We love this upside of Karma, don't we? Who doesn't understand the downside, right? Hey, if you are mean, people will be mean to you and there is a nice neat little package o' justice. So, the flip side is that if we are good, good things will happen to us and that, too, is justice. Our actions determine everything - it's all up to us and we're much more comfortable there.

So what could be the problem with that? Well, in a word, Jesus. He doesn't allow for the downside, or the upside, of Karma. As Bono says so brilliantly in Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas, "Karma is at the very center of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap so will you sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff."

Karma can not save us. Karma will not save us. Jesus can, and will save us. Karma is a harsh taskmaster, my friend. Jesus, by contrast, says "my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

So those of us who follow Christ then settle in to the idea that our sins have been paid for. We like that part, because the downside of Karma has now been abolished. That, is a great day! We love the security of knowing that our bad choices and all of the crap we have put into the world is paid for. We drop that burden quickly.

So why do we not take it full circle? Why do we hold on for the upside of Karma? We want to believe that in the work of Jesus on the cross that the downside of Karma is gone, but we still want that upside. We want to be rewarded and recognized for the good stuff we do. To be honest, that's why a lot of us go to church. We go to check the box, and wait for our gold star, goldfish crackers, stickers, or whatever other device our parents used to bribe us with.

Many of us have turned the gospel into this equation, haven't we? There's no downside, right? All the rewards with none of the risks. God rewards our good behavior and won't punish us for bad choices. Woo-Hoo!

Then to show our true selfish nature, the reward of Heaven is not enough for us. We want more. We want and need the recognition of man. We hire PR agents, or manipulate our friends into doing that work for us, to make sure that none of our good deeds go unnoticed.

But Jesus says in Matthew 6 that we are to do things in secret. We are not to look for reward here, our reward is salvation! Our reward is the Kingdom! Our reward is the very heart of God Himself! And we strive for a pat on the back.

Our pride destroys the beauty of our actions. Pride destroys beauty my friends.

If you know me, you know that I'm a reality TV whore. I'll watch almost anything...except for the ones that are fronts for soft-core porn. I can't handle those things, so I stay away from them.

Anyway, I saw an episode of Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List this year where she wanted to go and give away money to struggling working mothers downtown L.A. And that would have been a beautiful thing. Here's the problem - for her, it was a publicity stunt. Her whole motivation for giving the money was to get press. Her assistants called the newspapers, networks, and paparazzi to document the good deeds.

When we wish to be rewarded for "good deeds" the true motivation is exposed - our ego. We want the stroke, and we deny God the glory of revealing His heart to a broken and hurting world.

It's our own little blend of capitalism and Christianity, isn't it?

4 Response to "The Upside of Karma Sucks, Too"

  • Anonymous Says:

    Could you define transparency for me? Doesn't it mean having everything out in the open?

  • Tal Prince Says:


    That's certainly a good working definition of transparency. There are come cautions for that, but if we expose our faults, failures and fears we show our dependence upon Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the only answer to any of that.

    We don't turn every conversation into our own personal therapy session, but we do need to be open to talking about our weaknesses and failures. The Gospel says over and over, that it is the bad stuff about us we should be open about, and it's the "good stuff" about us that we should hide.

    It's very counter intuitive, isn't it?

  • Anonymous Says:

    Off topic – and not that I think you would watch the Oprah Show, Tal, which is where I became familiar with this case earlier this week, but have you followed the Winkler murder case in Tennessee at all? Not that the following facts in ANY way justified the women in killing her husband, but the murder trial revealed that this very conservative Church of Christ pulpit minister had tons of porn on his home computer (seized by the police, so not hearsay) that he made his wife look at with him in connection with having relations (according to her testimony), and he also made her wear stripper heels, miniskirts, and a wig on those occasions (seized by the police and bought by her husband, according to her testimony) to imitate the women in the porn. I guess my point is just that the porn problem is indeed widespread and very much covered up. You are doing the religious community a great service by shining some light on the subject and bringing this epidemic out in the open. Of course this guy’s congregation was completely shocked when all this came to light – but you, for one, know just how possible something like this can be. And in this sad case, the porn problem actually contributed to someone’s untimely death and ultimately left three precious little girls without either parent. It's something to think about.

  • Tal Prince Says:

    Thank you for your encouragement. You made me laugh with the Oprah comment. I have watched Oprah, and continue to monitor her show from time to time as she is a powerful influencer of our culture.

    I firmly believe that we, as believers, need to engage culture, not run from it. We are to be IN the world. God loves Oprah just as much as he loves me, right?

    I missed this particular show, but have read a great deal about this case. You are correct, that his actions did not warrant her actions.

    What she endured breaks my heart. What spouses of all addicts endure break my heart.

    Wouldn't it be great if they were both aware that there are places to get help? Wouldn't it be great if she could have told someone and received help? Wouldn't it be great if he could have had genuine accountability and intimacy in his life? Wouldn't it be great if the children of God could drop our masks and enjoy the true intimacy of the real Gospel?

    Thanks for your encouragement as we continue our journey in this conspiracy of Grace.