Overcoming Your Karma
By Elliott Ryan
I watch more TV than I should. At least that is what I’m
told sometimes at church. I often find myself using examples from
TV shows in my teaching. “What Jesus is saying here reminds
me of that episode of “The Cosby Show” where Dr. Huxtable…”
So recently I was watching an episode of an NBC sitcom
entitled “My Name is Earl.” It stars Jason Lee (known
for starring in such movies as Almost Famous and Vanilla
Sky) as a man whose life is in shambles. He has mistreated
people his whole life and it is starting to catch up with him.
He was watching Carson Daly on TV during the first episode. Carson
talked about how he thought his success in life was a result of
karma. He had done good things to others. As a result, good things
had happened to him.
Earl decides that the bad things happening to him are a direct
result of him treating others so badly for so many years. He decides
to improve his karma by making a list of everyone he has ever
mistreated. One by one, he is going back to each of these people
and trying to make up for what he has done. That is the concept
of the show. Earl’s list is so long that this series could
go on forever.
The concept of “karma” is an integral part of Eastern
religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. According to this belief,
our lives are controlled by karma, a sort of cosmic cause and
effect. If we do good things, we will have good karma that rewards
us with good circumstances. And of course, the opposite is also
true. When we do bad things, we will have bad karma that punishes
us with bad circumstances. Adherents to Hinduism and Buddhism,
who believe we will all be reincarnated to live many different
lives, even hold to the idea that good and bad karma carries over
from previous lives. And your behavior in this life will also
affect your status in your next life.
Only a tiny percentage of Americans claim they are devotees of
Buddhism or Hinduism, but the idea of karma is widely accepted
in this country. Even people who don’t use the term still
seem to believe in the concept. They would word it as, “What
goes around, comes around.”
In fact, most societies throughout human history have had a moral
code that compelled citizens to do the right thing by other people.
Our sinful human nature influences us to put ourselves first regardless
of how it affects other people. While we should know better, we
humans seem to need an outside force to remind us to behave. So,
goodness is rewarded and evil is punished. A societal expectation
has been set up that deems it necessary to treat others properly.
Or as Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do
to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up
the Law and the Prophets.”
The problem with the idea of karma is that it reduces good behavior
to an exact equation. A person’s good deeds must outweigh
their bad. If karma is a reality, we will all get exactly what
we deserve. That should scare us. Scripture tells us what we deserve.
Romans 6:23 says that, because we have all at one time or another
sinned, we all deserve death. Not just physical death –
but spiritual death too. We all deserve eternal separation from
That is not something we have to fear though. God’s grace
calms our fears. Grace is the undeserved love and mercy of God
that He will show to anyone who enters into a personal relationship
with Him. It does not matter how evil we have behaved in the past.
God is willing to wipe our slates clean. If we are willing to
turn away from evil and to Him, we will not receive the punishment
we deserve. But we will receive the blessings we do not deserve.
Scripture says, “For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the
gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”
(Ephesians 2: 8 & 9).
I thought about sitting down and making a list of all the people
I have ever wronged. I considered thinking of ways to make it
up to them all. I’m not even sure where I would begin. I
could not even remember all the people I have ever mistreated.
And if I could, there isn’t anything I could do to make
it up to everyone. Earl’s road to redemption might make
for must see TV. But it isn’t a realistic option.
Instead, I think I’ll just be eternally grateful for God’s
grace. I will spend the rest of my life striving to live up to
the righteousness that is expected of someone who has been given
such a great gift from such a holy God. But if I fail at times,
I won’t need to come up with a list of wrongs for me to
right. Someone else has already taken care of that for me. What
goes around does not always come around. Thank you God.
Do you have the assurance that your sins have been forgiven?
If not, check out this page: Find
Peace with God
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