Karma or Grace?

Pastor Don Carpenter / General

Failing Faith / Saved by Works; Faith / Mark 10:17–31

Michael and I grew up in the same church and ran in the same Christian circles for most of our lives. We both understand each other, in an ancient sort of way, when we discuss faith. Up until the end of high school, our religious experiences were nearly identical. He knew exactly where I was coming from when I talked to him about how I felt my faith changing, failing. “Sometimes I wonder if what we were taught—what we were exposed to—doesn’t work out here in the real world.” Michael laughed before responding with a hint of anxiousness. “Bro, you don’t even know.” After I became a pastor, it took Michael sometime before he felt he could be honest with me about God. Now he wasn’t afraid to talk about what his faith—or lack thereof—looked like now. “I’m tired of a Christianity that tries to tie a neat bow on everything,” I nearly growled.

“Maybe that’s cool for a church bubble or something like that, but not here.” I stopped pacing and leaned against the wall in my office. The head on a Star Wars bobble head Dad gave me bounced on my bookshelf as I slid toward the ground. Its face wobbled up and down as I spoke. “You know what a pastor told me after Dad was diagnosed?” I looked down at the ground before continuing. “He told me that the key to my father’s healing might just be me owning up to the correction God was trying to do in my own life.” “[Expletive] that guy,” barked Michael. “Yeah . . . forget that guy.” “It’s fake,” Michael’s voice carried a side of bitterness. “I don’t know how many times someone told me that if I were good, I’d have everything I’d ever wanted. Well then why do I look around at all the good people in my life and watch them suffer the most?” “I was thinking the other day; out of all the friends we grew up with in church,” I quickly replied in the heat of the moment. “How many are still there?” The line hummed with silence before Michael replied. “Not me.”

Bearden, Wade. Failing Faith: When What You Thought You Knew about God Doesn’t Work in the Real World (p. 10). Kindle Edition.

This kind of bitter disappointment causes many unbelievers to reject Christ and many believers to give up and quit serving Christ. 

One of the reasons for this is a misunderstanding of what God offers.  Non Christian world views have been melded with Christian ones over the years distorting the truth of pure Christianity.  One of those distortions is that of Karma.

Karma is a concept in many Eastern religions where the universe pays us for what we have done… if we do good… we receive good Karma… if bad, then we receive bad Karma. Karma is getting what we deserve. Like much o the Devil’s lies, it is laced with truth.

Galatians 6:7–8 KJV 1900

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

So, when the law of sowing and reaping is mixed with Karma, we start to look at the good in our life from a view of entitlement.  I have a job because I deserve it.  I have a car a home, a wife, kids that love me because I deserve it… God owes me that much.

In our Scripture reading this morning we read a story about a rich man who had a similar view.  He was rich because he deserved to be.  He just wanted to take it to the next level and schmooze his way into eternal security by talking to a very connected Holy man, Jesus.  He would give him the inside scoop on exactly what he had to do to further advance his cause from this life to the next.

This morning we are going to contrast the concept of Karma where we get what we deserve, with Grace where we get what we don’t deserve.  We will find that Jesus offers a much better deal when it comes down to Karma VS Grace.

Karma Often Seems to Work: The Delusion of Deserving Good

•    God’s Blessing is validation of one’s self righteous delusion. – The rich man trusted in riches as evidence of God’s blessing.

Mark 10:24 KJV 1900

And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

•    Flattery indicates one’s confidence in his own standing. “Good Master”

Good= benefit

Philemon 14 KJV 1900

but without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

•    The rich man’s question shows his Karma confidence… what good thing must I do

 agathos (??????) describes that which, being “good” in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect – Vine

•    Jesus dropped a truth bomb that prepared the rich man for the truth he was going to learn about himself… there is none good but God.

Mark 10:18 KJV 1900

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

•    With Karma, the standard you embrace becomes the standard that condemns you.

Romans 3:19 KJV 1900

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Romans 3:20 KJV 1900

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Karma Cannot Fix What Is Broken: The Reality of Deserving

•    Karma creates the illusion of self- awareness.

Mark 10:20 KJV 1900

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

At the beginning of her “Out of the Woods” music video, Taylor Swift is standing on a beautiful beach. “Vines begin to surround her as she slowly makes her way through a dark forest. As she sings of heartbreak and despair, she’s haunted by

both the forest and a series of wolves. The pack tears her dress, pursuing her to the top of a mountain in the middle of a snowstorm. The situation grows worse as Swift later

struggles through a swamp, a desert, and a firestorm—sounds like a day in Texas.

When she finally reaches the beach again, she approaches her former self, and gently

touches her shoulder. The video ends with the words: ‘She lost him, but she found herself. And somehow that was everything.’

“Swift’s video does provide an interesting window into twenty-first-century pop culture philosophy. Finding true peace means finding yourself. You alone hold the answer to meaning and purpose in this life”

(Bearden, Failing Faith, 25).

•    Jesus’ words shattered the illusion of self awareness.

•    These words of rebuke poured out of a heart of love from our Savior, not a heart of rejection opr hatred.

Mark 10:21 KJV 1900

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Mark 10:22 KJV 1900

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

James 2:10 KJV 1900

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James 2:11 KJV 1900

For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

•    Jesus invited him to come – away from his Karma based works and to Faith based belief.

John 3:16 KJV 1900

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

•    Jesus invited him to take up his cross- publicly confess his guilt and lack

Romans 10:9–10 KJV 1900

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

•    Jesus invited him to follow Him.

Matthew 16:24 KJV 1900

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

•    The rich man made his choice… he continued to trust Karma…after all look at all the tangible evidence that it was working for him…

Mark 10:22 KJV 1900

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Karma Fails But Grace Prevails: The Gift of God Transcends our Merit.

•    Jesus used this sad occasion to teach the disciples these things:

•    It is hard for those that are comfortable to realize that they have a lack.

•    It is impossible for someone who trusts in riches to trust in Christ. – especially when the reason they trust in riches is that the riches are in inaccurate “proof” that their karma is working.

•    The eye of the needle in context is not talking about something that is hard, but rather something that is impossible. 

Mark 10:27 KJV 1900

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

•    ?Trust in Christ and the Gospel yields rewards  Mark 10:28-31 Trust in Christ and the Gospel yields both temporal and eternal benefit.

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

(Mark 10:28–31, KJV 1900)      

“In his book The Prodigal God, pastor and writer Timothy Keller relays a conversation he had with a young woman about grace. The woman had grown up in a church that taught God only accepts those who lived good, ethical lives. Upon hearing Keller teach about grace—that God’s gift of salvation is completely free even to those who are immoral—the woman expressed fear. Keller asked her about it.” Her reply was telling:

“‘If I was saved by my good works—then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with rights. I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace—at God’s infinite cost—then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.’” (Bearden, Failing Faith, 16). (Quote from Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God:

Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith [New York: Dutton, 2008], 121).


Are you living under Karma or under Grace.  If you are trying to merit Heaven based on your deeds, your Karma will try you and find you wanting.  Jesus looks at you lovingly and says “One thing thou lackest”… righteousness.

Romans 3:10 KJV 1900

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

He wants to give you His righteousness if you trade your works for His.

2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV 1900

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

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If you are a believer saved by Grace through faith plus nothing, it is still possible to be living under Karma not grace.  Why do you serve?  Why do you tithe?  Why do you come to church?… so God will be happy with me and bless me… that is Karma… you wrongfully imagine that your actions will merit you favor.  God grants favor IN SPITE OF what we deserve.  If we humbly hit our knees God be merciful to me… we access His grace, and are covered by His righteousness.  So what are you trusting in to draw close to Jesus, your efforts, or His Grace?

1 John 1:9 KJV 1900

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In the battle of Karma VS Grace… Grace wins every time.

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