The overall point of Matthew 10:24-39 is that the most important thing in our lives is attending to our inner life because a life lived without reference to the reality of God’s presence is a life of suffering.

Our problem is that because the inner life is “hidden,” “covered up,” “secret” (verse 26) it is easy to ignore.

It is easy to become fixated on the externals of life. We see physical life. We touch and smell the material dimension of existence. Our feelings and emotions are near the surface.

But the inner part of our being that Jesus refers to as “soul” is more difficult to discern. It is more “hidden,” harder to bring into awareness.  So we ignore and even deny its existence.  And when we ignore or deny the existence of soul, we cause pain for ourselves, for those around us, for the rest of the world, and for all of creation.  I am the only one who has the power in my life to “destroy both soul and body in gehenna.” I alone can choose my own soul-death in this life.

The “soul”, the “covered up” part, the “secret” dimension of life is where Jesus puts the priority.

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is reported to have said,

43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus uses the image of the “heart” to speak about this hidden, secret, inner dimension of the human condition, saying,

what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:18, 19)

So, Matthew 10:24-39 is a stern warning to take seriously the “soul”, to pay attention to the “heart”, to look within and to nurture the “secret” dimension of life.

Jesus is warning of the possibility that we might live in gehenna for our entire lives, surrounded by the garbage and the maggots that result from our failure to attend to our inner-life health.

Don’t live in gehenna. Live in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city whose centre is the Temple of the Living God. To live in Jerusalem is to live a life that can be heaven all the way to heaven, rather than a life of suffering and alienation. God has counted even the hairs of my head (Matthew 10:30) and is deeply concerned about the most basic aspects of my life.  As I choose to live in tune with the hidden light that is Jesus, that light will shine more brightly in my life.

No matter how constrained the circumstances of my life may be, I always have the opportunity to turn within, to find the still quiet centre of my being where my true life resides. Matthew 10:24-39 is a call to depth, a summons to open to the hidden inner recesses of our being and to manifest in the material realm from that secret dimension that is the core of my true nature.