Karma is a concept in the eastern religions that suggests a person’s fate is based on their actions in this life. It is also related to the concept that the things that happen in this life are a just repayment of things that have happened previously in a person’s present life or previous lives. The Bible does not support the idea of multiple lives. We have one life to live. However, the Bible does agree that the universe is a place of judgement on a cosmic scale. Not allowing for an impersonal force in the universe, the Bible sees ‘karmic’ justice as being a reflection of God’s character. God has set up the universe so that if you live in accordance with its design things go well withyou, if you try to live against the God-given designs of nature things will go badly. On a simple level we see this if a person chooses to sleep very little and dine constantly on fish-and-chips and cake. Because this acts against design the body grows weak and ill. In a more abstracted way, we also see this when people do not follow God’s design for politics, the environment, or a functioning household.
Saul did not follow the design of God for kingship. His God-ordained ‘karma’ is an ignoble death.
1 Samuel 31
1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically.
4Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.”
But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.
7When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and they sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. 10They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.
11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.
- What has happened to the deliverer God ordained?
- In your own words, explain why the Bible teaches us that Saul must die this way?
- What is a right attitude toward God because of this passage?
- How does the universe repay evil and good?
- Why are views, like ‘karma’, that attribute ethical and moral judgement to the universe at best incomplete?