Sometimes the smallest phrase, the lightest stroke of the brush, the briefest glimpse can change the entire meaning of an experience. The comedian Dimitri Martin says the six letters in the little phrase “sort of” can have this effect: “I love you…sort of,” or “It’s a boy!...sort of.” The ending of M. Night Shamalan’s movie The Sixth Sense forces you to reinterpret the entire film. The last line of Harry Bates science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still has the same effect.
Diego Velazquez does something similar in his painting “A Lady with a Fan.” Painted between 1633 and 1635 is shows a beautiful, mature woman dressed mostly in black. She is either a Duenna, or in mourning. Her dress is accented with delicate white lacework, and a single ribbon, tied in a bow. Just below the ribbon there is a daub of red paint, about the size of a thumb print. It changes the whole painting. The woman’s face takes on a reddish glow of health. It is a visual effect achieved by the daub of red paint. The daub does not represent anything. Its sole purpose is to give the rest of the painting a red glow.
I have always tried to highlight the last phrase of Matthew 6. We tend to read right past it, but if we listen to it, it has the same effect on the Sermon on the Mount as that little red daub on Velazquez’s painting – it changes the tone and color of the entire composition.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6.34
Jesus has just spent several verses telling us not to worry, that God will take care of us. He takes care of the grass of the field, and the birds of the air, and He loves us infinitely more. Just when we think we are being cuddled and coddled and promised sunshine and rainbows we get the line, “each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The Sermon on the Mount is a mountain itself. It looms on the horizon of a Christian life the way Mount Fuji dominates the Tokyo skyline. Its claims upon the Christian are absolute. The life it challenges us to lead will demand every ounce of our energy, every fiber of our will. It is tempting to think of it as a hurdle too high for the average person to clear. Matthew 6.34 fastens the Sermon to the earth, to real life. A man who says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own,” is a man who looks at life with clear eyes. Such a man takes a realistic view of the world and the humans in it.
And so, when such a man, with feet planted firmly on Terra, says things like “love your enemies,” “do not judge lest you be judged,” and “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” we know it is possible.
Matthew 6.34 may be the most important verse in the entire sermon because it ties the sermon to earth. It communicates that the life Jesus describes is intended to be lived – by all of us, not just the best of us.
The sermon, of course, tells us how this is possible. First, God provides. The Beatitudes tell us all the ways God rewards, comforts and strengthens us. Second, we are not tethered to the earth. The Beatitudes tell us we are God’s Children, we are of the kingdom of heaven, our treasure is in heaven, and we are connected to the past and the future.
Thus we are equipped to live such a life in such a world.
Of course the daub of red that colors this sermon, and this life is the blood of Christ. There are no direct references to the crucifixion in the Sermon on the Mount, but we know that moment is waiting for Jesus, as does Jesus. His sacrifice makes everything in the sermon possible. If we always, always keep that sacrifice in mind it will change everything else.