Master of Godly Anxiety
By Anthony Casperson
3…2…1..click. The player controlling the tank of the party hits the aggro ability to draw the ire of the boss creature. Bam! The creature strikes the tank with a massive blow, causing their health gauge to plummet. And the boss always performs a double strike with this particular animation. Taking the hits is the tank’s focus. But will the tank survive another strike like that?
Sparkling magical energy surrounds the tank. “Thanks,” they say to the healer, whose staff lights up to send another boost of hit points to the tank. “No prob,” they respond, “Here comes another…Oh, that looks like it hurt.” The second hit from the boss creature impacts, but the healing performed keeps the tank up.
From behind, the rogue takes the opening, given after the boss’s attack, to strike. Three rapid blows move the creature’s health gauge down a considerable amount. Multiple backstabs, garnered by the tank’s distraction of the boss and boosted by the mage’s haste spell, send the fight to a near conclusion. Another round or so of that and the boss will go down. But now’s not the time to get greedy. The rogue disengages to wait for their next opening.
Each member of the party knows their role. Their worry is to be on their singular task. If even one member loses that focus, if their worry causes them to do anything other than their role, the whole thing falls apart. And they have to trust that each other member will perform their part.
If the tank began to worry more about their own health rather than drawing aggro, the boss would likely have turned toward the rogue who had already been dealing it massive damage. And the rogue could never have taken such a destructive hit. Not to mention, they would never have had the opening to strike.
If the healer had succumbed to the siren’s call of wanting to deal massive damage rather than healing the tank, the second strike from the boss would’ve killed the tank. And a soon-to-be-over fight would’ve become a disaster instead.
And if the mage hadn’t spent their time spamming hastening spells, this fight would never have even gone this well. Allowing the DPS (character who performs the most Damage Per Second) to shine with increased speed makes a fight all the more easy for everybody.
It’s only when everybody worries about their particular task that they can secure the win. Failure to worry about their individual place in the party rapidly turns a victory into an utter defeat.
Sure, it’s natural to worry about our own situation. Interactions with other people have taught us that not everyone’s reliable to look out for us. And someone’s got to. So, we worry about our own selves first, then try to perform our role.
But usually it’s too late. Damage has been done and it’ll cost even more resources to bounce back from the problem, if it’s even possible to.
This is Jesus’ point in Matthew 6:24-34. Our focus should be to worry about serving God, rather than selfishly taking care of ourselves. Thus, relying on God to worry about us. It’s a matter of trust that God will perform his part as we do ours.
In verse 24, he speaks of the inability to serve two masters. Usually, people assume the two masters are God and money, but the word translated as “money” or “mammon” means all of our stuff, everything we own and can put our trust in rather than God.
Therefore, Jesus’ meaning is that if we try to worry about making sure we’re totally good (having all of this backup supply) and also worry about performing the role God has for us, then there’s going to be a problem. We’ll inevitably put one master ahead of the other. One will get the priority in our attention, while the other gets the leftovers…if there’s even anything leftover. And when we selfishly worry about ourselves, guess who tends to get the priority. (Be honest here.)
This thought flows into the rest of the passage in Matthew 6 as Jesus continues his thought into verse 25 by saying “On account of this…” The inability to serve two masters has a deep connection with the topic in the following verses: anxiety.
Normally when people talk about anxiety in relation to these verses, they tend to lean in the direction of anxiety as a negative thing. As a matter of fact, while researching the passage, I even came across a commentator who flat out wrote that anxiety is sin.
If you’ve been around me for very long, you’ll know that I vehemently disagree with this thought. I’ve pointed out in a sermon from the book of Philippians that Paul commends Timothy for his anxiety (translated as “genuine concern” in Phil 2:20) for the people of Philippi. It’s the exact same word in both passages. And I don’t think Paul would be commending a person for sinning. Rather, he’s commending Timothy for worrying about the work of God among the people of God.
And this is what people (like that commentator) miss in their interpretations. Jesus isn’t saying that being anxious is a bad thing. Experiencing worry isn’t the problem. It’s when selfish worry becomes one of the masters we’re trying to serve that the problem arises.
Anxiety about God not performing his role leads us to forsake our role. It causes us to not draw aggro so that we can try to heal ourselves, rather than trusting that the healer’s gonna heal. And no tank (who has no ability to heal) will be able to move that health bar one point no matter how much they worry about the amount of their current hit points.
Being anxious for the work of God and worrying about the people of God is commendable. It’s our role in this party of God’s design. And this is what Jesus is trying to get us to do as he teaches about the Kingdom of God. Focus on our role. Focus on the work of God among the people of God.
And when we perform our role, worrying about God and the rest of the party, everyone else should worry about you as they perform their role. There’s no need to worry about our own selfishness because we’ll be taken care of. Our master will meet our needs.
Needs met just like those of the birds of the air or the flowers of the fields. It’ll be a natural process that we image-bearers of God should never have to focus on. Jesus says in verse 33 to seek first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added to you. If we let God be our master, if we worry about his work among his people as our primary focus, he’ll be sure to provide for us.
I know that there are some skeptical people out there questioning how this can be true when there are followers of Jesus who have incredible unmet needs. There are poor and homeless and abused and despised among the people of God. Is God not performing his part for them?
It seems like an inconsistency, but really it’s an indictment of our selfish behavior. Notice that this isn’t a party of two. We’re in this together as the party of God. Maybe the healer God intends to use in this particular instance is us.
Our role is to be anxious about the work of God among the people of God. If there are unmet needs among the followers of Jesus, it’s not that God is unable. It’s that someone is (or likely many someones are) trying to serve two masters. We’re not fulfilling our role well and other party members are feeling it. No one is worrying about them when we should be.
This shouldn’t excuse us to selfish anxiety, rather it should motivate us to do everything we can to remove every master from our lives that draws us toward such worry.
We have a master who tells us to be anxious for his work among his people. Let’s not serve any other.