the ultimate question

One of the big stories in Grand Rapids in 2011 was the November passing of Fred Meijer. The newspaper account of his funeral inspired this draft for Our Daily Journey. As always, your helpful suggestions are appreciated.

       Fred Meijer was one of the wealthiest men in the world. His Meijer stores were the first to combine groceries and general merchandise under one roof, and when he died his $5 billion fortune made him the 60th richest person in the United States. Fred also was one of the kindest. He wore his wealth lightly, often dropping by his stores to shake hands with customers, pass out coupons for free ice cream, and even bag a few groceries.

        His generous spirit made the news from his funeral that much harder to take. Fred’s Christian friends had long worried that he didn’t know Jesus, but the progressive preacher at his funeral pretended that didn’t matter. “How do you inherit eternal life?”, the pastor asked the mourners, “By being a good neighbor, like Fred was.” I pray that Fred believed better than this, for that is a tragically wrong answer.

        A young ruler once asked Jesus the same question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” When the man affirmed that he had been a good neighbor by keeping the second table of the Ten Commandments, Jesus replied that he hadn’t done enough. “Go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor…Then come, follow me.” The man sorrowfully concluded the price was too high, and he went away shaking his head (Mark 10:17-22).

        The man was not necessarily being materialistic. In his Middle Eastern society, houses and lands were owned by families rather than lone individuals. He was responsible for a large chunk of his family’s estate, and to give it away would be an act of betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, impossible.

        But not with God. How do you inherit eternal life? Put the whole world—family, friends, money, sex, and chocolate—on one side and nothing but Jesus on the other. Which do you choose?

4 Comments

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  1. Chocolate?? Now, Mike Wittmer, you are no longer preaching but now you are meddling.

  2. Melissa Hartwell January 6, 2012 — 11:14 am

    Thank you for including chocolate. ..I’m not naming any names but “some people” struggle in that area🙂

  3. When I briefly worked at the Knapp’s Corner Meijer, Fred would come by with his wife for lunch in the eatery once a week. Heart of gold.

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