Are Christians allowed to cast lots to make important decisions? I am
interested in whether it is “allowed”, not whether it is “recommended”.
The standard response I get is that Christians are supposed to pray for
guidance. The New Covenant (at least, after Pentecost) includes the
provision to Christians of the Holy Spirit, also called a “guide”,
“counselor”, etc, but the Spirit was already active during the Old
Covenant, when Proverbs 16:33 was
definitely still valid. I’m unable to find any indication in the New
Testament that Proverbs 16:33 was invalidated.
A good rule to go by is that a Christian is “allowed” to do anything which
is not prohibited by scripture, either by direct command or by strong
inference from some sort of principle in scripture. It is hard for me to
think of a passage in the New Testament which prohibits the use of casting
lots in making a decision. The fact is that we have a precedent for such
a thing. In Acts chapter one, the disciples wanted to choose from amongst
themselves one of the witnesses of the ministry of Jesus to be an apostle
in order to replace Judas. They narrowed it down to two choices, and used
lots for the final choice. Anyone who claims that casting lots is sinful
or that it somehow is a statement of lack of faith in the work of the Holy
Spirit probably needs to change their opinion, given that we have
precedent from the apostles for using lots to make a decision. Yes, it is
The next question is whether it is to be recommended. This is a matter of
opinion. I believe we need to leave matters of opinion more or less
alone. For myself, being a scientist and tending toward analytical
thinking, I find it hard to imagine suggesting the drawing of lots to make
a decision. I would lean toward a thorough analysis, followed by a
logical choice of the best plan of action. However, it is not my or
anyone else’s place to judge someone else for using lots. Would God
actually intervene in the process, making his preferred choice come out
the winner? I am personally skeptical, but who am I to say? Either way,
I can certainly imagine a scenario in which a group might find it
difficult to make a final choice in some circumstances, and deciding that
the choosing of lots might be the easiest way to make a final choice.
I believe that Proverbs 16:33 can also be used to show that the casting of
lots is acceptable. Bear in mind that although the law of Moses was
“cancelled” (Coll 2:12f) by Jesus’ death on the cross, the book of
Proverbs is not part of the law of Moses. It is a list of wise sayings
which are all as true today as the day they were written. None of the
proverbs are cancelled under the New Covenant.
One last comment. I agree that it is wise to pray about big decisions.
Having said that, I do not believe that one can assume that in praying we
are somehow guaranteed that God will intervene and subliminally give us
the right decision. Making a wise decision, especially in a weighty
matter, requires advice, prayer, careful study of the scriptures, common
sense, and just possibly the use of lots.