What does the Bible mean when “they cast lots?” Is it sin today for Christians to make decisions based on this practice? What does the Bible say about casting lots?
Why Did They Cast Lots?
Was casting lots a form of gambling? Absolutely not. In the Old Testament, when the Jews had to make a decision, they cast lots to decide. This was also practiced by the pagans as we read about in the story of Jonah (1:7). When the lot fell to Jonah, they knew it was he who was the cause of the storm. There are at least 88 accounts of casting lots in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament and it was something that God did not condemn then but there is no need to do so today. In ancient days, God allowed the Jews and King Saul to cast lots to find out who was guilty, just as in Jonah’s case. Even King Solomon knew that “Casting the lot puts an end to disputes and decides between powerful contenders” (Prov 18:18). Casting lots was not restricted to the Old Testament because when they were seeking to have Judas replaced, “they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). So in the time in which the Bible was written, there was nothing sinful about casting lots. It was the way that God allowed important decisions to be made, and ultimately, even the lots fell where God willed them to fall (Prov 16:33). Lots were also cast to determine priestly duties in the Temple (1 Chron 24:5), to determine scapegoats (Lev 16:18), and to divide the land (Num 26:55), but what exactly did casting lots involve?
What is Casting Lots?
Casting lots is not what most people think it is. It is not rolling the dice. Casting lots were actually white, smooth stones put into a cup, but there was usually one stone that was black, thus the expression today of being “black balled.” When they cast lots, each person took a stone out after they were shaken up and the one who received the black one was the guilty party. If it was disputes that were being settled, the same process was involved and the guilty party got the black stone. For decisions about priestly duties or dividing up land they would frequently have a symbol or name for the tribe or priest that was mixed together with the others, and whichever lot came out at a particular time, a decision was based upon that. There was no chance for the lot being cast for the wrong person or the wrong tribe because God is sovereign even over the lots.
Today, there is no need to cast lots, and most certainly to consults with mediums, palm readers or diviners is an abomination to God. We have direct access to the throne of heaven by Christ Himself Who is our Mediator so there’s no need to cast lots, flip a coin or roll the dice. You can also seek godly counsel from an experienced Christian counselor , pastor, elder or deacon. You do not need to make major or even minor decision based upon luck when there are too many other biblical options open to you. To make a major decision or choice over chance is to put one’s self at risk; risk from making the wrong decision, and one that is not in the will of God.
Truly, “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone” (Prov 16:33), but the most important question is, “Have you trusted in Christ?” There is no other way to heaven than through Jesus Christ (John 6:44). The path to hell is broad and wide, but there is only one, narrow path to heaven (Acts 4:12). You have to make a decision because to make no decision is to choose to reject Jesus Christ, and that will not go well for you the moment after you die, and no one knows when that will be. We all have an appointment for our death (Heb 9:27). At that moment, it will be too late to do anything about your eternal state. Like the rich man in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, you cannot cross over, nor can you go back and warn your family or friends (Luke 16:19-31). The fact is you will be there for all eternity, and when 10 billion years have passed, you will not have knocked off one second of your eternal punishment. Your eternity is been permanently cast if you reject Christ. Choose  today who you will follow. Tomorrow may be too late.
Read more about Jonah: Bible Story Summary of the Book of Jonah 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.