The Precious Providence of God
There are many, many, aspects of eastern mysticism that have made their way into the church over the last couple of centuries. One of the most prevalent ideas that can be found both inside the church and outside the church is the idea of karma. At least in how people use it, a second closely associated concept is the idea of chance or luck. How often have you in your normal speech attributed something to bad luck? Perhaps you see something happen, maybe you see a car on the side of the road in the rain with a blown tire and think to yourself, what bad luck to have such a thing happen at this time. Or perhaps you have had the thought when you see someone doing something that what goes around comes around. Maybe someone cheered you, cut in line, or took the last jug of heavy cream before thanksgiving and you think to yourself, what goes around comes around. The question we need to ask ourselves is, is this something that scripture teaches? Is this how we as Christians, the children of God are to act?
The Short Answer
The short answer is no. No this is not something that scripture teaches and is not how Christians should act. These ideas of luck and karma are utterly foreign to scripture. God is not karma. Karma as defined by Websters is "the force generated by a person's actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person's next existence." The basic idea here is that you reap what you sow. What goes around comes around. That good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When something happens outside of this ordering of things the world attributes it to luck or chaos. That there are just random events that have no discernable source. There are parts of this that sound right. I mean we are taught in scripture that we will be called to account for our actions. There will be a final judgment at the end of days and justice will be done.
What is the Difference
So what is the difference? The difference is that God is not an impersonal force. He has not created the world and left it to run on its own. He, moment by moment, uphold the whole of creation by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). It is in him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The word that Christians have used to describe how God interacts with his creation on a day to day basis is providence. What is the providence of God? It is the subject of question 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism. It states that providence is "The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand." Simply put, providence is the term we use to describe that God takes care of his creation. He orders it. He brings the rain and the sunshine. Nothing that happens in all of creation happens outside of the province of God. He is the sovereign Lord of all his creation. As R.C. Sproul used to say, there are no rogue molecules. There are no events that do not happen outside of God's control.
So we have looked at the truth that God, not some impersonal force such as karma or luck, is in control of the universe. But what advantage is there to understand this? Why is it important to know that God is in control of all things? "That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move (Answer to Q. 28)" Paul writes to us in Romans that nothing in all of creation can separate his children from him. We can trust God who created the whole universe to uphold it according to his perfect character. He that has started a good work is faithful and will bring it to completion. So next time you are tempted to look to karma or blame luck, remember that God is sovereign and is at work. God will see justice done and everything that happens both the good and the bad a part of his plan. When we understand that God's providence is at work we can say with Paul "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:12-13).
Soli Deo Gloria