Counsel of Chalcedon
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Jesus and the Tax Revolt

In Matt. 22:15-22, we read of a challenge to our Lord to give grounds to justify a tax revolt. In view of the fact that this episode is sometimes cited by contemporary tax revolt advocates, it is important to examine it closely to see what its meaning is.

We are told that its purpose was to "entangle" Jesus, i.e., to place Him in an intolerable predicament. Paying taxes to Caesar, a foreign ruler, was highly unpopular with many; to deny the validity of a tax revolt would cost Jesus, the Pharisees reasoned, popular support. The populace in disgust would regard Him as an appeaser, an ally of an unpopular and hated regime. However, to favor the tax revolt would invite reprisals against Jesus by Roman authorities. The question, then, was carefully designed to be deadly in its consequences to Jesus, and it was asked with flattering guile, asking Him to tell the truth without fear of consequences:

"Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" (Matt. 22:16-17)