Karma and Sin Contrasted


The Sanskrit word “karma” basically means “to do or act.”  In most basic terms, the law of karma states that one reaps what one sows.  The law of karma implies that every thought or deed, whether they are good or bad, will count in determining how an individual will be born in their next life on earth.  So an individual with bad karma could be born many different times into lower castes of humans or even into lower forms of animals.  In Hinduism, the person cannot be released until they are reborn into the Brahmin or priestly caste.  So this is how karma and reincarnation are intertwined.  So in reality individuals are in control of their salvation, which is their release from the cycle of birth and rebirth.1

Biblical Response

Some might say that karma is part of Christianity because of Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”  Even though the scriptures teach us that we will reap what we will sow, karma and Christianity are not compatible.  We must remember that Galatians 6:7 is talking about this lifetime, not the afterlife.  Karma and the biblical idea of reaping what you sow are not the same.  The Bible teaches that we will die once and then be judged.  Hebrews 9:27 says “And inasmuch as it is appointed for me to die once and after this comes judgment.” 

We need to understand what sin is.  I John 3:4 says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”  This tells us that sin is the breaking of the law of God.   How do you know if you have sinned?  Have you ever told a lie?  Have you ever stolen anything?  Have you ever hated anyone?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are a sinner.  You are guilty of breaking the law of God.  Isaiah 59:2 teaches us that sin separates us from God, which states: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.  And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”  Sin also brings death to all people.  Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Similarities and Differences between Karma and Sin

  1. Similarities:
    1. Both involve moral choices.
    2. Both affirm the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship between our actions and the results they produce in our present lives.
  2. Differences
    1. Karma (Hindu Concept): Karma does not affect one’s relationship with Brahman, which is the essence of existence within all things.  Whether one’s karma is good or bad makes no difference to the fact that we are unconditionally extended from the oneness of Brahman. Sin (Christian Concept): Sin does affect our relationship with God in that we become alienated from Him.  One of the attributes of God is absolute moral holiness, and our sin reveals an attitude of rebellion against His authority.
    2. The law of karma, which makes morality like a law of nature, does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness.  Its consequences are inevitable and inescapable. Because God is personal, and because persons can forgive, God can forgive us of our sins.  Moreover, He has done so through Jesus Christ.2
  • 1. Kenneth Shouler, Ph.D. and Susai Anthony, The Everything Hinduism Book, F&W Media, Inc.; Avon, MA; 2009; page 58.
  • 2. Dean C. Halverson, The Illustrated Guide to World Religions, Hinduism, Lion Hudson plc., 2003, page 90.  These similarities and differences are taken from this book.