What is the WELS position on “karma,” and how is it different than reaping what you sow? Is it OK to use the term in conversation?

Karma is the belief in Hinduism and Buddhism that people’s actions in this life determine what happens in their next life. There are a couple of problems with that belief. Reincarnation is not a biblical teaching. In addition, karma is all about people’s actions and a deity’s response to them; it is thoroughly work righteousness. People are taught that they can improve their situation in the next life by being good in this life.

Galatians 6:7-8 does state: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” That information is from the only true God, the Triune God. Those words explain that if people live according to their sinful nature, they can expect “destruction.” That is because such a life displays unbelief and impenitence, and the Bible clearly explains the end-of-life judgment that awaits the impenitent and unbelieving (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Mark 16:16). On the other hand, faith in Jesus Christ saves (Mark 16:16), and in grateful response for their salvation Christians will live life “to please the Spirit.” There is nothing in Galatians 6:7-8 or elsewhere in the Bible that teaches work righteousness.

You may want to be careful in using “karma” so you are not confused with people who believe in reincarnation and work righteousness.

You may want to be careful in using that word for another reason. In conversations today, people might use “karma” to describe bad things catching up with people or people “getting what they deserved.” Jesus warned against making connections between disastrous events in people’s lives and their relationship with God (Luke 13:1-5). Rather than trying to make such connections, Jesus instructed us to take a look at our own lives: “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). Seeing calamities and tragedies in the lives of others is to move you and me to repentance. Our sins call for God’s swift judgment, but we implore his mercy, and we praise him that “he does not treat us as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10).

When it comes to karma, I personally want to distance myself from its meaning and usage in every way.