Lastly, our riches do not belong to us alone. The Gospel has prescribed no regulations as to how we are to use them, but it leaves us in no doubt that we are to regard ourselves not as owners but as administrators in the service of our neighbour. Nay, it almost looks as if Jesus contemplated the possibility of a union among men in which wealth, as private property in the strict sense of the word, was nonexistent. Here, however, we touch upon a question which is not easy to decide, and which, perhaps, ought not to be raised at all, because Jesus’ eschatological ideas and his particular horizon enter into it. Nor is it a question that we need raise. It is the disposition which Jesus kindled in his disciples towards poverty and want that is all-important.
The Gospel is a social message, solemn and overpowering in its force; it is the proclamation of solidarity and brotherliness, in favour of the poor. But the message is bound up with the recognition of the infinite value of the human soul, and is contained in what Jesus said about the kingdom of God. We may also assert that it is an essential part of what he there said. But laws or ordinances or injunctions bidding us forcibly alter the conditions of the age in which we may happen to be living are not to be found in the Gospel.
(3) The Gospel and the law, or the question of public order.
The problem dealing with the relation of the Gospel to law embraces two leading questions: (1) the relation of the Gospel to constituted authority; (2) the relation of the Gospel to legal ordinances generally, in so far as they possess a wider range than is covered by the conception “constituted authority.” It is not easy to mistake the answer to the first question, but the second is more complicated and beset with greater difficulties; and very diverse opinions are entertained in regard to it.