Sin and Karma

Imagine this scenario.  A young man, troubled through high school, finally gets a job at a local shoe store where, for a while, he tries to become a good, hard-working citizen.  But the temptation is too great, and eventually he embezzles from the store.  As a result, the store itself becomes insolvent, the company folds, and, consequently, the young man loses his job.  Thus his own action comes back to hurt him.

Now, suppose instead that the troubled student did not merely “find” his job, but was befriended by another high school student, one whose father owned a family shoe store.  And in an effort to help the troubled young man, the family gave the wayward kid a job.  But again, the kid embezzles from the store, the store collapses, and the young man loses his job.  It’s the same story.  But suppose the family finds out why they lost their store.  Suppose they find out that the young man whom they befriended was the cause of the collapse.  We find then that the issue is not just one of suffering the consequences of one’s own actions.  For in the second case  there is more than some abstract “evil.”  There is betrayal.

This is the difference between sin and “bad karma.”  For sin is not merely a “bad” action with repercussions; it is a betrayal of trust, an affront to love.  No wonder people prefer karma, for in some imagined economy of automatic moral retribution, there is no one to face, no one that can look at you with sorrow.  To break the shoe store is the same in both stories; to betray love and trust is something entirely new in the second tale.  And it is a burden no honest soul can bear without tears.  The dishonest conscience would therefore much more happily believe in karma than sin.

Yet here is one more difference between karma and sin: it is possible that the family that trusted the young man can learn of his sin and forgive.

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