Karma or Grace

The idea that we get what we deserve – Karma.

Many of us know popular phrases regarding Karma in our lives, even if it’s not our belief system.  A few of us have wished Karma to happen to those around us.  One or two of us have had our choices come back around and bite us.  Karma seems to be the Hindu and Buddhist version (with a twist) of the Christian Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you.

 It has to do with the consequences of our actions.

Today my eighth grade students, their parents and I, held a yard sale event in order to raise money for their class trip and graduation.  It’s been a work-in-progress for weeks. It’s not a small job, but it is a way to earn money.

Christianity says: Do as Christ did – not as we deserve, but as we’d like

One lady came to our sale and it appeared she might not have a lot of money – her simple clothing, her self-styled hair and her careful shopping all gave us clues.  After selecting with deliberation, she approached to pay for her $4.50 purchase.  She handed me five dollars and told me to keep the change. “It’s for the kids!” she spoke with a sweet and loving smile.  She spotted the brownies the students and I had baked and asked the price.

“Fifty cents,” I replied.

She immediately dug into her purse with a mischievous grin.  “I must have one – after all I need energy to walk home.”

The mom helping me waved her aside, “No!  You already paid an extra fifty cents – just take the brownie!”

Again that kind smile,

“No.  No, it’s for the kids.”

And she bid us an all-encompassing goodbye, wishing the students a wonderful class trip.

Meanwhile, a much younger lady plowed through the clothes, tossing garments one way and then the other.  She had removed her own shirt to try on several others, leaving herself in a black camisole.  Her boyfriend (I’m assuming, I don’t actually know) backed away, walked around nonchalantly for quite some time and then got in his car and drove away, leaving her to toss clothing at will.

I watched her off and on, because her manner was abrupt, slightly rude and a little shifty.  She had darkly dyed hair and spackled on make-up and when someone reached for a shirt, she grabbed it and examined it carefully.  It was odd – it’s a yard sale for goodness sake.

Friendly conversation flowed around her and it was well-established, among those shopping, that this yard sale benefited these hard-at-work students.

A customer asked me a question and as I drifted off to assist him I lost sight of the black camisole.  When I looked up, she was no longer at the table.  I guess it’s a teacher thing, because my eyes automatically scanned the area and spotted her, with many clothing items over her arms, trotting around the back corner of the building and out of sight.  I heard a car engine rev and saw the boyfriend’s car zoom onto the street and away.

The moms and I muttered about people stealing form the kids and felt a little miffed at her behavior.  Frankly, we were dealing with donations and we were cutting deals like crazy – it’s what you do at a yard sale.  Had she asked, we would have sold her those items for very little – but because she didn’t ask, we were indignant at the theft.

One of the helpers sifted through clothing, folding and straightening.  Suddenly she let out a little guffaw and held up a bright pink phone.  She opened the phone and yes, karma is real.  The lady who stole the clothing had left her phone behind – unlocked, so we could easily verify whose pictures it featured.

The karma gets better.

Shortly after, two police cars pulled up.  The officers got out and sauntered over to take their coffee break, buying the baked goods and drinks from the kids in order to offer their support to our cause.  The mom took their business card handed them the phone.

For some reason (and maybe this is not a proud moment) it gave us all a little moment of glee that this lady had stolen $7 worth of clothing (maybe) and had left her smart phone.

In all honesty – haven’t you had those moments? Gleeful moments where someone who treated you so rudely at work is the one to get in trouble with the boss?  Self-righteous moments where you saw someone shop-lift and watched security pick them up?  Have you seen those videos where the car that cuts off the semi-truck get bumped into the ditch?  It makes my students giggle, how about you?

But sometimes they’re not little moments.  Sometimes it’s not glee, but revenge that might burn in the heart.  That jerk who stole money gets busted.  Deserved.  That embezzler who loses it all.  Asked for it.  That bully who gets put-down and reviled.  Karma.

I remember when a cancer diagnosis went with a little shake-of-the-head and a sigh, “Well, he smoked all his life.”  I’ve seen people murmur at an accident scene, “Drunk – she had it coming.”

So Karma fights with “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

We must train ourselves not to hope the revenge happens. Instead of dealing out reactions to other’s choices, we must choose to treat as we would want to be treated, not as they deserve.  Why?

As Christians, we have not received Karma – we are not forced to receive what we deserve. “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Sin has separated us forever from a God of love and light.  But our God does not deal in Karma, He deals in grace.


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