The Problem with Karma


Acts 3:1–5 (NIV)

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.


“The Spirit of Jesus in me greets the Spirit of Jesus in you and brings us together in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.”

I told you we would be here awhile. 

Now the temple was the most sacred place on the face of the Earth, the dwelling place of the living God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—Yahweh, the King of the Universe. If anyone could help, God could help, but the beggar wasn’t taken into the temple to encounter God. He could only go as far as the gate where maybe God’s people would take pity on him. He couldn’t go into the temple because their doctrine deemed him unclean. Now we come to perhaps the most wicked problem of all. It’s the wicked problem of bad theology. 

Where does bad theology come from? Thanks for asking. It comes from a bad reading of Scripture. It’s why we want to be ever growing and learning to read the Bible better. It’s one of the main things we are doing out here on the Wake-Up Call (I mean the Seedbed Daily Text) every single day. There are several notoriously bad ways to read Scripture, but one of the worst is to read and interpret the Bible through the primary lens of our own experience. To be sure, we all do this to one degree or another.

Remember that time Jesus and his disciples encountered the man blind from birth? I can’t help but think this whole encounter was in Peter’s and John’s minds as they approached. They had been trained on this. 

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

This is the devolution of the biblical doctrine of holiness into garden variety karma. Somebody got what was coming to them. It can be a way of protecting oneself. “Obviously neither us nor our parents sinned or we would be in the same state,” we almost unconsciously reason. Everybody wants to interpret God’s reason for this or that bad thing happening in a way that accounts for why it did not happen to them.

Everybody on their way to the temple who walked past this beggar who was lame from birth carried this thought: “Who sinned; him or his parents?” Their understanding of Torah and holiness had become so fossilized as the status quo that it deformed not only their image of God but it crippled their very imagination. And that’s how it works. Our imagination sinks or soars based on our image of God. This is why we must have Holy Spirit inspired biblical revelation else we waste our lives. 

Behold Jesus’ response:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

Jesus crushes karma by taking the biblical doctrine of holiness to its theological end game: Grace. Remember when Jesus told his disciples this bit? 

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:25–26).

Well, this is what it looks like when John 14:26 happens. The Holy Spirit reminded Peter and John of this glorious word from Jesus:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).

Buckle your seat belt, friends. We are about to see it happen. 

Still day one.


God our Father, who with your son Jesus Messiah, fills us with the Holy Spirit, thank you for the miracle and the mystery of the day of Pentecost. And thank you for today, and that it is only the day after. Today, I want to invite you let the Holy Spirit blow through my mind like a powerful leaf blower, clearing out all the debris of my inferior readings of your Word. I don’t even know what they are. Search me Holy Spirit. Replace my prejudicial readings with your revelatory understanding. I want to see the real you and to imagine after your imagination. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen. 


Have you ever made this connection between your image of God and your imagination? Does this resonate with you? How you “see” God determines how you see yourself and others and the world. And how we see God so often comes from our own broken life experience—which becomes the lens through which we see everything—and through which we read Scripture. Ponder this today. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. I woke up this morning with this thought on my mind and I posted it on Facebook before coming to today’s Daily Text.
    “Make it your first priority to see things from God’s perspective & to let Him hold you accountable to His ethics. Self-righteousness is blindness to your own sin. God’s righteousness shows you your sin. ”

    Thank you, JD, for calling us to God’s perspective rather than our own. It’s time for Spirit-inspired revelation! Matthew 6:33: God’s perspective first!

  2. J D, I’ve read and affirm that a person’s image of God the Father is formed by the relationship one has with their earthly father. If one is fortunate enough to have been born into a family with a practicing Christian, Godly, dad then they would have the advantage of having a proper view of God. Unfortunately, nowadays this is more the exception than the rule. Having this knowledge of the problem allows us to have a baseline from where to begin the process of true discipleship. Your prayer about the “leaf blower “ , I believe, deals with this.

  3. It seems that the entire community of Israel was suffering from a particularly poor reading of Scripture. I am no biblical scholar, but have they not taken the prohibitions of Leviticus 21 that appear to relate to serving before the altar as a priest and applied then to entry into the temple – well at least into the court of men? And there is the misinterpretation of David in 2 Samuel 5:8. But in Isaiah 56, YHWH makes himself clear that his house will be a house of prayer for all nations, that by faith (expressed as keeping the Sabbath, interestingly) YHWH declares clean and circumcised both the eunuch (those with deformities) and the foreigner. AND THEY WILL ENTER THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. Jesus quotes this desire as he cleanse the court of gentiles from obstacles to anyone desiring to enter and speak to YHWH – pray. From Matthew 21:14 we know that Jesus himself invited the poor and the lame to come to him IN THE TEMPLE – he is YHWH – and he healed them. It is the coming into the presence of YHWH by faith that brings holiness and healing. The whole community of Israel got this backwards. In fact, every Israelite is actually commanded to appear before YHWH and offer sacrifice on the altar in Exodus 23 and Deuteronomy 16. The lame were prohibited from keeping this command. As with all poor readings of scripture, you’re going to have to throw some stuff out to make your interpretation fit.

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