Casting Lots to Make Christian Decisions?
Is the casting of lots an appropriate way for Christians to make decisions in churches today?
In Acts 1:23-26, two candidates for apostleship are proposed in order to fill the office of apostle that had been left open due to the unfaithfulness of Judas Iscariot. The ones proposed were “Joseph called Barsabbas (also called Justus)” and Matthias. In order to seek the Lord’s will as to which of the two should be called, lots were cast. The lot fell upon Matthias, and he assumed the office of apostle.
In Old Testament times, it was a frequent practice to cast lots to seek the will of God. Some interpreters believe that the Urim and Thummim, worn by the high priest on his breastplate, were some form of lots that were somehow used to determine God’s will. Similar customs existed among non-Israelites, and it was not uncommon for lots to be used by pagans in questioning their gods.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “lots” is kleeros (Strong’s #2819). All four Gospels use the word when describing the casting of lots over Jesus’ garments by the Roman soldiers. It is again used in Acts when lots are cast over Matthias. In every other usage of the word kleeros in the New Testament, it is being used by extension to describe the part or inheritance that Christians have in the Gospel or its ministry, rather than in a literal description of the act of casting lots.
The casting of lots in Acts 1 was done in a single instance, under the direction of the apostles on that specific occasion, for the resolution of a unique problem. There is no Biblical indication that any Christians ever practiced the casting of lots on any other occasion. Nor is there any command to utilize such a practice in seeking God’s will. Rather, Christians are encouraged to seek God’s will through prayer and the study of scripture. So there appears to be no reason to believe that the use of lots was intended to be normative for all Christians even in the first century, and certainly not throughout the history of the church.