Definition: The performance of meritorious acts that go beyond what is required. In Catholic theology, these meritorious acts (performed by Mary and the Saints) contribute to a heavenly bank account known as the “Treasury of Merit.” The Pope can make withdrawals from this Treasury in order to shorten a person’s time in purgatory.
Discussion: Jesus shoots down any notion of meritorious works: “when you do all things commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Lk. 17:10). The Bible says that no one is righteous, and that we can do nothing apart from Christ. Salvation from sin is entirely a gift. It is a fatal mistake to consider works as being meritorious. Paul pities his fellow Jews who were trusting in their own righteousness: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:3-4).
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