Work we Must, but the Lunch is Free

November 2, 2016

Ren Posts

My good friend Mike Stroud told me about an amazing paper written by Hugh Nibley April 20, 1982 titled: Work we Must, but the Lunch is Free

I felt the spirit really strong and tears came to my eyes when I read the story about the two Employers.

This is the answer I’ve been searching for with Why I continue to do what I do.

The Two Employers (excerpts)

“Adam, we have created for you this earth, and have placed in it everything you could possibly need—all finished and ready for use. Help yourself—of every tree thou mayest freely eat.”

Was Adam idle and bored, his character undermined by such easy living? Hardly!

Adam and Eve

He went happily about his work of taking good care of the place; he enjoyed frequent conversation with angels, and in the cool of the evening he strolls with the Lord himself—what a vast expansion of mind and spirit that evokes!

And to spend one’s days with a woman of infinite understanding, whom age could not wither nor custom stale, was enough to fill the days with endless delight.

When Adam left the garden, he went right on with his work of cultivating the earth, himself, and his numerous posterity, engaging in the three activities that are recommended as the proper way of life to all who work in the vineyard:

“Behold, I say unto you that you shall let your time be devoted to

[1] the studying of the scriptures, and

[2] to preaching, and to confirming the church, . . . and

[3] to performing your labors on the land” (D&C 26:1).

Study, the work of the kingdom, and the cultivating of the soil were Adam’s calling for almost a millennium—and he never got bored.

Though no longer in Paradise, he enjoyed the visitation and instruction of heavenly visitors, who undertook to teach him how he was to return again to his preexistent splendor with enhanced qualifications and credentials for what lay ahead.

To merit such promotion, he was to be tried and tested while he was here, and for that express purpose Adam had to come to an understanding with another type of visitor, a person of enormous ambition and cunning, who was purposely turned loose in the place to put Adam and Eve to the TEST.

What does he tempt them with? LUNCH!


We can put the situation in terms of two employers who are competing for the services of the man Adam and his posterity, who are intentionally placed in the middle between them:

on the one hand, “the devil . . . inviteth and enticeth . . . continually” to work for him, while on the other, “God inviteth and enticeth . . . continually” to work for him (Moroni 7:12-13).

The first employer (devil) offers us lunch, and since lunch is something everybody must have, he is in a powerful position to bargain.

He explains that this glorious earth is his private estate, that it all belongs to him to the ends thereof; in particular he owns the mineral rights and the media of exchange, by controlling which he enjoys the willing cooperation of the military, ecclesiastical, and political establishments, and rules with magnificent uproar.

He keeps everything under tight control, though, for all the blood and horror—nobody makes any trouble in his world from the rivers to the ends thereof.

Well can he ask Adam,

“What is it you want?”

for he claims to be the God of this World, and the Lord himself grants him the title of Prince of this World.

All who are not working for him on his estate he charges with trespassing, including even heavenly messengers, whom he accuses of spying out his vast property with an eye to taking over the whole of it.

But he is willing to make a deal if they have money.

To have merely sufficient for your needs, however, is not what he has in mind—that would be the equivalent of the free lunch, lamely ignoring the endless possibilities for acquiring power and gain that the place offers; this developer has a vision of unlimited sweep and power—

”You can have anything in this world for money!”

Beginning, of course, with lunch. Because money is the only thing that will get you lunch—and since everybody must have lunch, that is the secret of his control.

Economics of England

This almost mystical identity of money with lunch we see in the reports of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others of their missions in England, where people were literally starving to death in the streets, while many in the city were living in the greatest opulence.


The trouble was that the poor people had to starve because they could get no money, and they could get no money because the factories were closed, and the factories were closed because of an unusually severe winter—an act of God.

So there was plainly nothing to be done and no one to blame—one does not oppose the laws of nature and of God: There is no free lunch.

Do you sense the irony here?


Brother Kimball tells how his family in this fair land lived for weeks on boiled milkweed; they had worked very hard, but still there was no lunch for them, because the money they had saved up by their diligent toil was suddenly worthless—it is money alone that gets you lunch, mere work is not enough.

Your prospective employer explains how that is: The money part is necessary to keep things under control. For the Kimballs, lunch was life itself, the bottom line of any economy.

What would happen, then, if lunch was always provided free for them? Would they not lose their most immediate incentive to work—the need for lunch-money?

And since money, as they tell you in Economics 101 is:

“the power to command goods and services,”

who would ever do any work again? How can you command somebody to work for you if he doesn’t need your lunch?

That, the shrewd employer (devil) explains, is why he must never cease reminding one and all in his domain that there is no free lunch. It is that great teaching which keeps his establishment going.

“All I have to do to bring my people into line,” he says, “is to ask them: ‘If you leave my employ, what will become of you?’

That scares the daylights out of them; from the man on the dreary assembly line to the chairman of the board, they are all scared stiff. And so I get things done.”

So let us go across the road for an interview with the Other Employer.

To our surprise, he answers our first question with an emphatic:

“Forget about lunch! Don’t even give it a thought!”

“Take no thought of what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink or wherewith ye shall be clothed!”

“But what will become of me then?” you ask.

Not to worry, “We will preach the gospel to you, and then you will find out that lunch should be the least of your concerns.”

This is the part that really took my breath away…

Brigham Young Younger Pic

Let Brigham Young explain the situation 

We have been permitted to come here to go to school, to acquire certain knowledge and take a number of tests to prepare us for greater things hereafter. This whole life, in fact, is “a state of probation” (2 Nephi 2:21).

While we are at school our generous patron has provided us with all the necessities of living that we will need to carry us through.

Imagine, then, that at the end of the first school year your kind benefactor pays the school a visit. He meets you and asks you how you are doing.

“Oh,” you say, “I am doing very well, thanks to your bounty.”

“Are you studying a lot?”

“Yes, I am making good progress.”

“What subjects are you studying?”

“Oh, I am studying courses in how to get more lunch.”

“You study that? All the time?”

“Yes. I thought of studying some other subjects. Indeed I would love to study them—some of them are so fascinating!—but after all it’s the bread-and-butter courses that count. This is the real world, you know. There is no free lunch.”

“But my dear boy, I’m providing you with that right now.”

“Yes, for the time being, and I am grateful—but my purpose in life is to get more and better lunches; I want to go right to the top—the executive suite, the Marriott lunch.”

“But that is not the work I wanted you to do here,” says the patron.

Boy carrying books

“The question in our minds ought to be,” says Brigham Young,

“what will advance the general interests . . . and increase intelligence in the minds of the people[?]

To do this should be our constant study in preference to how shall we secure that farm or that garden [that is, where the lunch comes from!]. . . .

We cannot worship our God in public meeting or kneel down to pray in our families without the images of earthly possessions rising up in our minds to distract them and make our worship and our prayers unprofitable.”

Lunch can easily become the one thing the whole office looks forward to all morning: a distraction, a decoy—like sex, it is a passing need that can only too easily become an engrossing obsession.

Brigham says,

“It is a folly for a man to love . . . any other kind of property and possessions.

One that places his affections upon such things does not understand that they are made for the comfort of the creature, and not for his adoration.

They are made to sustain and preserve the body while procuring the knowledge and wisdom that pertain to God and his kingdom [the school motif], in order that we may preserve ourselves, and live forever in his presence.”

And about work?


Hugh Nibley gives an example in his own life.

I once had a university fellowship for which I had to agree not to accept any gainful employment for the period of a year—all living necessities were supplied:

I was actually forbidden to work for lunch. Was it free lunch? I never worked so hard in my life—but I never gave lunch a thought. I wasn’t supposed to.

I was eating only so that I could do my work; I was not working only so that I could eat.

And that is what the Lord asks us: to forget about lunch, and do his work, and the lunch will be taken care of.

Now there is one key to all of this.

For without a sincere religious awareness, the free lunch corrupts rich and poor alike. It is the recognition of divine law that both sactions and requires the free lunch for everybody. 

My own thoughts: The above I know to be true based on my own experiences with the second employer. Just when I thought we were through and were not able to take another step financially. God provided in miraculous ways. Was it how and what I felt should happen at the time? No! I had some moments where I just wanted to quit. “God why are you doing this to me?” But looking back on it all I’ve been blessed more than I ever could have imagined and God continues to do so today.

Am I sayinging we shouldn’t work? Absolutely not. It just shouldn’t overshadow our ultimate objective in this life which I had backwards for a long time.   

More Reading: Does God Trust Me

More Reading: When much is Given

All the Best to you and your family!

PS: Click here to read My Story.
PPS: Connect with me through Facebook.


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