The Monk and the Minister

OK, let’s get this blog off and running.  Here’s one of my favorite parables to get us started:

Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways.  One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king.

Years later they meet.  As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk.  Seeking to help, he says:

“You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”

To which the monk replies:

“If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.”

Most all of us fall somewhere between the two.  As for me, it is better to be closer to the monk.

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  1. Tom Kemper says

    Marine Corps officer, Ad Agency VP, test driver … now a farmer. Glad to be more monk than minister. SemperFi, Tom

  2. Moin Agate says

    Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from
    an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking
    about making my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Cheers

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hey MA….

      So, this blog looks established? Ha! 🙂

      Boy howdy, am I the wrong person to ask about this! I’m still stumbling about in the dark.

      I launched it just over a year ago and randomly choose WordPress after somebody mentioned it. From what I gather since, it is one of the better hosting sites, so I’d recommend it if you have no other preferences.

      I’m also not very technical, but the set up process was pretty easy. As they say, if I can do it anyone can.

      I’ve paid no attention to building an audience or monitizing it, but I probably should. So like you, I’m in need of help!

      Good luck and post a comment with a link to your blog when you get it up and running.


  3. smr says

    Funny, I think the monk is the one in the controlled “conditioned” life and the minister is living with the “dirt” and “real” life where people, environment, natural world, governing collide and compose the world we live in. The days of Kings are over and power is more distributed due to democracy but it is messier and very organic.

  4. Jo says


    My husband and I recently discovered your blog, and it is like a breath of fresh air, confirming a lot of things we already believed, but also giving lots of new insights. The past couple years, we have been practicing living simply. Now we have some great ideas on how to use this practice as part of our hope to retire early. Excellent.

    We look forward to going through the rest of your posts!

    -Jo & B

  5. Dr. Penny Pincher says

    This is a great parable! Did you make it up, or is it a classic?

    I searched around a bit on the internet, and have only been able to trace it back as far as this post on your blog from 2011. Do you know anything about the origin of this parable?

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Glad you like it!

      It is not original to me.

      I hear it many years ago and I’m afraid I don’t recall where.

      • Maree says

        Ah, now I understand the error in it; you obviously heard it incorrectly. The word isn’t “cater”, it’s “kowtow”, the ancient form of obeisance in many East Asian countries.

          • MattB says

            Found it! I just happened to be reading “Sayings and Anecdotes” of Diogenes the Cynic. Diogenes Laertius records an interaction between Plato and Diogenes the Cynic while the two are in Sicily. Plato: “If you learned how to pay court to Dionysios, you wouldn’t have to wash vegetables.” To which, Diogenes retorts: “If you learned how to wash vegetables, you wouldn’t have to pay court to Dionysius.” (, page 33)

  6. Kris says

    I stopped working over 2 years ago (age 52 now) for various reasons and my husband just got let go from his job a few weeks ago (age 43). I am studying your site diligently, and while we are thinking outside the box for income, I’ve been also working on this very idea: how to be the monk.

  7. vorlic says

    “Eat your food as if this day is your last, and plant your crops as if you were immortal…”

    Not quite the same vein as this parable, but I fancy it’s in the same vein as this blog! My wife directed me here, bless her… we all need your version of “The Gambler” 🙂

  8. Chris says

    Came here because it was linked to from the MMM forum. I was ready to read a LOOOONNNNGGGG post, and you have greatly surprised me. Thanks.

  9. Garrett says

    Coming to this again now in 2020. This quote has popped into my head a lot recently. It’s one reason why I tested fasting this Sunday: I wanted to see what a day without food would be like. Turns out.. it was totally fine. Made me appreciate food more on Monday. I didn’t starve, didn’t even feel hunger pangs.

    Thank you for this post

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks, Garrett!

      This was my first.

      Might not be a bad idea to Tweet and FB it given what’s going on… 🙂

  10. Brian Wolff says

    First time reading this and I love it! Makes me think of the story of the Mexican fisherman – which, ironically I found on the wall of a Jimmy John’s of all places.
    Neither here nor there, but it’s amazing the effect simple stories/parables like these can have on our own perspectives.

    Glad I started following you on Twitter which brought me over here – and I just ordered the book!

  11. Chris@TTL says

    This is a great parable I love sharing. It reminds me a few other quotes from the classics…

    Those two from the philosophical classics hit the core of financial freedom for the average person, I think:

    2. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

    3. “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

  12. Julie says

    So when we were 61, my husband, upset after working another 18 hr day, said, ” I know I need to work until I’m 67, but I’d retire tomorrow if I could.”

    My response was, “if you are willing to sell this house and buy another house with only the equity, we can retire tomorrow.”

    So we put the house on the market, sold it 3 months later and retired the next day. Been loving our life ever since.

    But the funny thing is that when other people complain about how they can’t retire, I tell them how we did it, but most of them won’t even consider a move to something less.

    They just keep on complaining and working.

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