No Free Lunches

We’ve often heard the phrase that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It comes from, (according to legend), habits in the American West during the late 19th Century where saloons would offer a “free lunch” to customers who purchased at least one drink.  

They served a “free lunch” of salty ham, cheese and crackers which all but guaranteed that the thirsty patrons bought a lot of beer, and of course, more than covered the cost of their “free” lunch.

In spiritual context, we know that nothing comes to us without our payment in mental and spiritual coin. In life outside of formal/organized religion, it is often known casually as “karma” and on the playground it is known as “what goes around, comes around“.

What this means is that we cannot expect to manifest things into our lives without putting out the requisite balance in effort (attitude, spiritual work) or other work.

I often write about manifesting, and describe incidents where truly miraculous happenings took place that allowed people to buy homes, fix a roof, pay for student loans and more. The “catch“, if you will, is that never once did a disembodied hand come out of the sky and hand the person a fist full of money; and the prize patrol never once knocked on the door.

In all of these situations, the miracle demonstrations came to and through regular people and circumstances. And this is GOOD news, because it’s how it should work. It’s good news,…unless we’re in a circumstance where we’re benefiting from something without paying our fair share or contributing up to the level that is needed.

In one job situation that I had a few years back, I was making a lot of money. The benefits were very good and the work was easy – in fact, a little too easy. I enjoyed the work, the environment and the perks – but as I understood the way that the Universe works, I knew that “something wasn’t right“. I knew that the amount of time, expertise and energy that I was expending was not at all in alignment with the compensation I was receiving.

As it turned out, the organization was out of alignment, and after I left (my choice as I knew that change had to come and wanted to leave on my terms, not as part of a layoff), they had several reorganizations, changed all the positions, and salaries came way down to be more in line with industry standards.

This is a perfect example of the “no free lunch” concept and a demonstration of the Universal Law requiring balance and the payment of mental and spiritual coin.

I have mentioned at various times that I have worked over the years as a church musician (traditional religion). In one organization, the senior minister was not held in high esteem, because while the church membership and tithes were waning, he was still pulling in his regular salary, but was not visiting shut-ins (discovered when the family member of one called a Board member after the long-time member passed away), or people in the hospital, and it appeared that his only activity each week was giving the sermon.

That was bad enough, but then one of the most ornery members of the Board decided to look up his sermons and found that he was downloading sermons that he found on the internet and presenting those as his own – often verbatim from the text found online.

While there, I was (unfortunately) privy to many staff meetings and congregational gatherings where this was hotly contested. In the end, the minister was forced out and left a rather cushy gig with few requirements and even fewer time constraints on his weeks.

In truth, he cooked his own goose. He was being paid a full-time minister’s salary, and was not doing much to earn it. In other words, he was not paying enough in mental and spiritual coin to receive that salary – and so it was taken away.

We must be cognizant of these Universal spiritual principles as they are at work in our lives at all times whether we want them to be, are aware of them – or not.

We can get into trouble when we start to think that a company or organization is “lucky to have us“. While our families and loved ones view us as one-of-a-kind; our employers know that each and every one of us is absolutely replaceable.

As Wayne Dyer taught in his focus on “Living the Tao” – if we want to manifest an abundant life, we must position ourselves in service; asking NOT “what’s in it for me?” but instead, “how may I serve?“.

And this brings me to the point that inspired this post to begin with: I’m beginning to question whether or not we’re supposed to be “selling” things related to spiritual principles.

After the movie The Secret came out, Law of Attraction (LOA) gurus began to multiply like rabbits. They lined up 10-deep to “teach” people how to be prosperous, and manifest money. While I do not want to paint with too broad a brush, there have been more than a few questionable outcomes from their rise to fame (see blogs linked below).

Similar to the prosperity teachers, of whom I am also critical, these LOA gurus seemed to be best at manifesting money by promising other people they’d teach them how to manifest money and charging for that training. Call me a critic (I accept the label), but if you’re an expert at manifesting money, why don’t you teach people for free? Otherwise, you’re just an old-fashioned huckster, who is selling the hot item of the day.

I get a cross-eyed feeling when I’m told that I need to give money to someone who’s selling themselves as an expert on making money – so they can teach me how to make money. I have no beef with paying educators – I’ve been a college professor for many years – but something is out of whack in this equation. If you’re such an expert on making money appear, show me how you do it absent picking my pocket!

This particular corner of spiritual teaching (around manifesting money) has opened the door for me to question if the whole money model for religion has been wrong all along.

No one person or organization OWNS these teachings. This means that no one person or organization has the sole right to make money off of them. And if we’re all children of God, or a Unity of One,… don’t we have an obligation to share what we know with others, period?

I believe that the time of salaried church employees is over. It’s time to move to a model where the expenses of the organization are published monthly and consist of the basics: keeping the doors open and basic programming (internet access, liability insurance, etc). Here’s an example of a transparent schedule where potential monthly EXPENSES are listed across the top and the # of members are listed at the left (from 10 members to 30 members).

The numbers at each intersection represent what each member would need to contribute based on the level of expenses. For example, in a church or center where basic expenses are $4,000 each month, and there are 15 regular members; each member would need to contribute $267 every month to support the organization.

When members believe that the expenses are too high, they can vote to address them with a change. But this way, everyone knows finitely what is needed to “keep the doors open” and the lights on.

Anything above and beyond basic expenses should be a love offering.

  • Classes? Love offering
  • Morning meditation and lesson/talk? Love offering
  • Workshop on applying spiritual principles? Love offering

Those who want to monetize a particular angle on these things are always welcome in a capitalistic society to go out into the open market and write a book! There’s also the option of getting invited to speak at conferences by being a dynamic speaker and effective teacher. There’s no crime in selling your wares on the open market; but when we brand ourselves as religious or spiritual organizations, we step into different territory.


These principles and practices don’t belong to anyone – they belong to us all. AND – the world just works better when more of us are living in the flow.

All of which makes me wonder about the decline in church attendance, membership and tithing: perhaps it’s just the Universe moving those who profess to be “spiritual teachers” to this much more equitable model of living and sharing these ideas because we’ve missed the boat, the message and the Truth principles all this time.

Only time will tell.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

One thought on “No Free Lunches

  1. Pingback: Understanding incentive | A Practitioner's Path

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