O Death, Where Is Your Stimulus?

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We’re hearing
a lot of talk about “stimulus” these days.

The word seems
to serve as a bureaucratic euphemism for “bailout” or “throwing
money at the problem” based on the discredited Keynesian/Marxist
theory that prosperity can flow from debt in, with, and under the
“divine” word of government. This approach is to economic policy
what the adage “beatings will continue until morale improves” is
to corporate culture.

The word “stimulus”
is itself interesting. It’s a Latin word, and it jumps out of the
page in reading St. Paul’s famous passage of comfort used in Christian
funerals, 1 Cor 15:55: “O death, where is your victory? O death,
where is your sting?” The word translated “sting” in English was
previously rendered “stimulus” in the older Latin Vulgate
translation: “Ubi est mors victória tua? Ubi est mors
stímulus tuus?”

In other words,
“O death, where is your stimulus?

St. Paul continues
in the next verse: “The sting (stimulus) of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.”

At least in
the context of Holy Scripture, the ancient Latin word “stimulus”
takes on a different context than it does for those who believe
government has the power to turn water into wine, paper into gold,
or debt into wealth.

St. Paul also uses the word “stimulus” in 2 Cor 12:7: “So to keep
me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of
the revelations, a thorn (“stimulus”) was given me in the
flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming

these passages of Scripture have nothing to do with modern-day American
economic policy. But it is interesting that the word used by the
politicians in place of the more crass “bailout” or the more accurate
“throwing money at the problem” is the Latin word that often, in
the Biblical sense, denotes the infliction of pain associated with
death, suffering, and Satan; and which according to the Lewis and
Short dictionary frequently means “a goad” or “that which vexes,
irritates, torments.”

Indeed, the
“stimuli” will continue until the economy improves.

26, 2009

Larry Beane [send him mail]
serves as associate pastor and teaches junior high Latin and Religion
classes at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Gretna,
LA. Visit his

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