Can you determine God’s will through games of chance like darts and dice? Just because Bible characters did it, that doesn’t mean you should. Throughout the Bible, in both the new and old covenants, people have employed gambling to determine the will of God. It’s true that they weren’t gambling for money. Instead, they were gambling with God’s will—which I might argue is worse.
In both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament, we find faithful people engaging in games of chance, with serious consequences. Every day people cast lots to make important decisions. This was like drawing straws, rolling dice, or casting bones. It’s from the casting of lots that we get the word “lottery.” This was an ancient form of divination, employing chance to determine the will of God. In essence, when a decision from God was needed, the people took a gamble and decided that the outcome must be from God. Here are some scriptural examples:
The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone.
The sailors said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Urim and Thummim
Hebrew priests used more sacred devices known as Urim and Thummim for their lottery-like decision-making. Nobody knows exactly what these looked like. Some have suggested that the priests carried a bag with a black stone and a white stone inside their breastplate. Withdrawing the white stone might mean a “yes” answer, while the black stone would indicate a “no” response from God. These may have even been cast upon the twelve-jeweled breastplate, with each of the dozen stones possessing a deeper mystical meaning. Whatever they were, the people believed that these objects of random probability were a direct oracle from God. Here are some scriptures about these mystical gambling devices:
In the morning, therefore, you shall come forward tribe by tribe. The tribe that the Lord takes shall come near by clans, the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household that the Lord takes shall come near one by one. And the one who is taken as having the devoted things shall be burned with fire, together with all that he has, for having transgressed the covenant of the Lord and for having done an outrageous thing in Israel.
Then Saul said, “O Lord God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If this guilt is in me or in my son Jonathan, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim, but if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were indicated by the lot, but the people were cleared. Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.” And Jonathan was taken.
Games Christians Play
Taking these scriptures and others as prescriptive rather than descriptive, Christians play all kinds of games of chance to determine God’s will. Here are a few examples I’ve seen. Maybe you could add some more:
- One friend prayed, put on a blindfold, and threw darts at a US map to determine where God wanted her family to move. (It’s noteworthy that as random as this seems, they chose not to put a state map or map of the earth on the wall.)
- I’ve known lots of people who have opened a Bible to a random page and pointed a finger to a haphazard spot, to find a message from God. (I may have even done it myself, in my younger days.)
- Another friend decided he wanted to get a dog, even though owning a dog wasn’t in the budget. He went to a kennel and sat down with the puppies. When one came over to him and began snuggling, he said, “God wanted me to have this dog!”
The fact is that these methods are no more than gambling with God’s will. (Click here to read my article, “Is Gambling a Sin?”) But these random methods aren’t the best way to find what God wants for you.
Sunday School Answers and the Holy Spirit
What’s the best way to find God’s will for your life? The Sunday school answers, it turns out, are true (this time.) Back in Sunday school, it seemed like “Read the Bible and pray” were the answers to half the questions our teacher asked. So much so that if she caught you unprepared, you could spout off this answer and could gamble on being right. Instead of employing random tools like dartboards and dice, try getting to know God instead.
We must observe that, after the descent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, never again do we see God’s people in the Bible using random means as a method of discerning God’s will. When Jesus left the earth, he told his disciples that he would send them the Holy Spirit, who would guide them into all truth. With the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Christians don’t have to gamble with God’s will. That’s because the Holy Spirit leaves nothing to chance.
The Best Way to Know God’s Will
Of course, it’s important to note that the Bible is not, nor has it ever been, a comprehensive book to answer every situation and question in life. Instead, the Bible gives guidelines on how to determine what is wise, what is helpful, and what is prudent. It’s up to you to fill in the details with the specifics. As my granddad once told me, “The best way for you to figure out God’s will for your life is to use what God put between your two ears.” Read the Bible and pray. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Then think! Instead of gambling with God’s will, use the brain God gave you. That’s a game you can’t lose.