Sunday, October 27, 2019
THE TREASURY OF MERIT
In the teaching of the Catholic Church, there is a sort of spiritual “bank” called the Treasury of Merit. In it are the merits (good works, righteousness) of Christ and of Mary and of the “saints.” These merits are obtained through something called indulgences, which can only be granted through the authority of the pope (CCC 1478), and are offered to man so that all who partake of them might be “set free from sin and attain communion with the Father.”
In other words, the Treasury of Merit exists to help people by applying its contents toward their salvation, i.e., to pay for their sins.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints ‘the Church’s treasury’, which is not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy.” (CCC 1476)
Furthermore, it says:
“This treasury includes, as well, the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord… In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.” (CCC 1477)
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
First of all, is this an authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church? Indeed, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, the Treasury of Merit is a dogmatic teaching, and therefore, an “infallible” doctrine of the Catholic Church. See here:
This same link admits that Christ’s satisfaction / payment for sins is “infinite”:
“Since the satisfaction of Christ is infinite, it constitutes an inexhaustible fund which is more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin.”
Yet, the Catholic Church adds the “merits” of Mary and the “saints” to this treasury, as well. But if Christ’s merits are infinite, why add the merits of anyone else? If they are adding anything, they must not really believe that His merits are “more than sufficient,” after all. So, is there something lacking in the work of the Savior on the cross so that the merits of others must be added? It would seem so in the Catholic system of salvation.
Nowhere does Scripture describe or even imply a “treasury” in which human merit is mixed with the merit of Jesus Christ to bring about justification / salvation. The Catholic Treasury of Merit offers a false hope. Salvation cannot be purchased with money, human merit, or good works. It comes only from a surrender to Jesus Christ and trusting in His work on the cross, which results in a changed heart.
The Great Insult
Imagine that you owed someone a hundred million dollars (in other words, an impossible debt). But a generous billionaire felt sorry for you and offered to fully pay that debt for you. But let’s say that you wanted to “chip in” and you added five cents to the billionaire’s payment, then you went around bragging to your friends that you “participated” in paying your incredibly enormous debt. But this would be an awful insult to the billionaire, whose ample wealth more than covered your debt, and he (not you) had every reason to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It is the same thing with salvation. Trying to add human merits (even from the “saints” or from Mary) to the perfect and completely sufficient merit of Jesus’ work on the cross is an incredible insult to God. It would be poisoning the pure and infinite well of salvation that Jesus provided.
No Mixture Allowed
If anyone appears before God on Judgment Day with the hope of such mixed merit, he will be rejected! Only the pure merit of Jesus Christ will be sufficient to allow us to enter glory, and He needed no help from anyone to do it.
If you attempt to add anything (any work, any merit) to the cross, you bring upon yourself the curse of the Judaizers (Acts 15:1, 5; Galatians 1:8-9). See this link:
A Catholic Objection
But the Catholic may say, “But there are two types of punishments for sins: One is eternal punishment (which has to do with the guilt of sin – CCC 1472, 1473). In this case, a person is forgiven the guilt, yet still requires work, effort, or suffering by the sinner. That is, he is still required to satisfy some temporal punishment (CCC 1471, 1472, and 1473), which is satisfied either by suffering and / or good deeds done here in this life, or suffering in Purgatory. This Treasury of Merit is to provide remission (forgiveness) only for the temporal punishments for sin.”
But isn’t this Treasury supposed to contain Christ’s merits? And isn’t His merit “inexhaustible” and “more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin”? So why would this “treasury” not be enough to take care of ALL punishment for sin, both temporal and eternal?
Again, the following are the phrases that the Catholic Church itself uses in describing the contents of the Treasury of Merit: Its merits supposedly “set [a person] free from sin,” they “attain communion with the Father,” they are “truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value,” they are “an inexhaustible fund which is more than sufficient to cover the indebtedness contracted by sin,” and they consist of Christ’s merits, which are “the infinite value, which can never be exhausted.”
All this, yet this treasury’s merits can only satisfy the so-called temporal punishments of sin?!!! The best we can say is that it is only partially effective in setting one “free from [his] sin.” The Catholic Church speaks highly of this treasury’s “efficacy,” but apparently, it is not effective against the eternal penalty for sins, i.e., it is not enough to satisfy one’s guilt. Therefore, it cannot be of Christ (John 1:29; 19:30; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).
There is a great contradiction here!
One last thing. Note that CCC 1477 above says that Mary and the “saints,” through their own merits, have not only attained their own salvation, but have merit left over to apply to others in need of merit. This would mean that they were able to obtain for themselves excess righteousness! They were able to earn more than enough to be saved! This is an absurd and absolutely unbiblical concept. According to Scripture, we can’t pay for our own salvation (Romans chapters 3 and 4; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5), and if we can’t even pay for our own, then how in the world could we get “extra” merit to pay for others?!!! If anyone could merit salvation for himself, then Jesus came and died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21)
This concept of the Treasury of Merit totally nullifies the sufficiency of the Savior’s suffering and work on the cross. And not only that, according to Indulgentiarum Doctrina (an Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI – Chapter 4, Section 8) the Catholic Church threatens an anathema (condemnation) for anyone who says that indulgences are useless, or for anyone who denies the power of the Catholic Church to grant them. So the Catholic is obligated to believe in this false “treasury.”
It is obvious that the Treasury of Merit is part of a system designed to make its members totally dependent on a man-centered, works-based salvation… which is no salvation at all.
See also this article on indulgences: