The law of karma or the law of cause and effect is an intriguing concept. It has been expressed many times in many ways. But way before English musician John Lennon penned “Instant Karma,” Paul (not McCartney) wrote to the Galatians, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”
A similar verse appears in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
The verse seems to indicate you get served what you deserve. A common expression these days is, “What goes around comes around.”
Karma applies to the positive as well as to the negative; it is not just cosmic punishment. It is a spiritual, yet natural consequence of actions. Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast thy bread (money or provisions) upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”
As a young teen, I donated some clothes to a thrift shop. Shortly thereafter, I was given some nicer clothes. I once gave gave $100 to someone in need and I received a much greater amount of money seemingly out of the blue. However, my young and foolish years taught some tough lessons, too. A friend and I “borrowed” money that was not ours. That exact amount of money was taken from me in an unusual circumstance. It took some years to see the connection between these events, but it became clear to me that these things happened because of the law of cause and effect/karma, both for the good and as a consequence of wrongdoing.
Recently, someone stole money from a friend. At first I felt sorry, than I recalled that this person had wrongly taken something equal in value. When I heard the story, I didn’t exclaim “karma!” because I recall how long it took for me to grasp that universal law.
I want to make sure to point out that when bad things happen in our lives, it may or may not indicate an error on anyone’s part. This brings up the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I have read some very meaningful books on the subject. When Rabbi Harold Kushner’s 3-year-old son was diagnosed with a disease that meant the boy’s life would be cut short, Kushner was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, he wrote the classic, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” An excellent read.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said the law of cause and effect is the “law of laws.” We are constantly changing our world, little by little, hopefully for the better.
Deanna Cooper is the pastor at Kodiak Family Church (Unification Church).