Fox News recently ran a story about a Marine Corporal who had just won $2.9 million at a Las Vegas casino. The marine, 26 years old, had been accepted to be an anonymous bone marrow donor two days previous to winning the jackpot.
When asked about what he would do with his winnings, he said he planned to help his pregnant sister and his mother catch up on some bills. He also bought some new clothes—at a thrift store where he buys all of his clothes. He also plans to keep driving his current vehicle which has 250,000 miles on it.
On the surface this is a story that has every appearance of some good things happening to someone who was doing good things. Here is how the marine described the turn of events:
“They asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it (the bone marrow procedure) because it’s kind of painful, but what’s a little pain if it will save someone’s life? I look at this jackpot as kind of good karma for that.”
So we have a young Marine who is thrifty, serving his country, willing to go through pain to help someone he doesn’t know, and then uses his newfound wealth to help his family and still maintains his frugal lifestyle. Good karma seems to be in order!
But let’s ask the question that the news story does not ask. Does this young man deserve his good fortune? Or is he playing a high stakes game of risk and reward that is even more reckless than his trip to the casino?
You see, doing good things in order to receive good things is the most dangerous form of gambling imaginable. Really. Does that surprise you?
It shouldn’t because your eternal soul is the stake of this wager. Scripture teaches us that everyone denies the truth about himself and God (Romans 1:18-21). This marine has chosen to wager that his good works will make the difference for him. He has chosen to believe that his good works will compensate for his not-so-good works—which is the idea behind karma or any form of self-justification.
By contrast, the biblical story shows that the Good Samaritan had no self-interest in helping a foreign stranger. He extends himself without any thought of a reward for his “good” actions. He wasn’t banking on karma for success and well-being. This notion of self-justification is one that comes with the territory of being born a sinner in a fallen world. I would urge you to use this story of the Marine who believes in karma as an opportunity to talk to your children about the gospel. The grace we receive from Christ has nothing do to with our efforts to be good. In reality, even the good things we do are tainted by some form of self-interest or self-justification. There is only One who is good enough to atone for my sins, for your sins, and for your children’s sins.
While we can appreciate the good things that the Marine wanted to do, that fact that he saw his “good fortune” as appropriate “payback” for his good deeds demonstrates that he is about self-atonement; self-justification
Do your children expect reward for good actions? If they do, they too, are in the self-atonement business. Humility leads to gratitude when we do good things for God and others. Attempts at self-atonement lead straight to an expectation of reward and appreciation. On the other hand, humility is an attitude consistent with the Gospel. Looking for karma is an attitude consistent with self-justification. One attitude leads to gratitude and life. The other attitude leads to selfish expectation, bitterness and death. Help your children to see the difference.