57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
On first reading this Thesis is a little confusing. I think the meaning of this is that the indulgences themselves are not the temporal treasure (good works) that gives relief to the punishments of sin. Rather the indulgences only draw on a treasury of good works that have been gathered together for resale as indulgences. If they were the good works themselves then there would be no limit to how many they could sell. As stated in the Theses before this one, Luther felt that the contents of this Treasury of the Church was not well defined enough to be preached to the people of the church.
By human nature we all come to realize that we have not always done the “right thing” in our lives. Our inclination is to then want to do something “good” to make up for the bad that we did. Much like when we hurt a friend we look for a way to “make it up to them”. We come before God and we want to “make it up to Him”. At the time of Luther the church had taken these feelings and made them into a system of good works. It was almost a sacrificial system. With these Theses Luther was trying to move the church to understand that our good works do nothing to make us right with God.
Today we must resist the urge to want to “do something” in order to be saved and simply trust in the merits of Jesus Christ for our eternal salvation.
Oh Lord forgive me for the times that I have tried to “make it up to You”. Give me the power of Your Spirit that I may trust completely in You for my eternal life. Through Christ my Lord, Amen.