A Zen teacher (Yasutani, maybe?) was once asked about what such newcomers might feel were onerous-if-not-downright-greedy demands. He laughed and said approximately, "Oh yes! Charge them a lot! That way they'll think the Dharma/enlightenment/heaven is worth something."
Strange how accumulating wealth and possessions can elicit enormous effort. It's an expensive business -- the car, the house, the family, the art work, the status ... pricey. What is costly costs a lot. Sacrifices must be made when achieving success.
But whereas success is often costly, the only thing more expensive -- the only thing that costs more -- is what is free. What is free requires more effort, more expenditure, more attention, more blood, sweat and tears than anything with a price tag.
If paying for a $500 retreat is expensive, not-paying for it will suck you dry.
The Zen teacher's comment is one of those slightly sneaky nudges that takes the ordinary sense of acquisition and success and puts it to some fruitful use. Most newcomers haven't yet got what it takes to accept what is free ... so let's pretend it costs a lot, the more ordinary approach.
This slightly-sneaky nudge opens the door to a lot of chicanery, of course, and helps to make the Vatican the richest corporation in the world, but it's a pretty good gambit, corruption and all.
What is free is expensive and requires a savings plan that some spiritual practices can provide... muscle building so that when what is free comes around and kicks you in the ass, there is no need to whine and whimper and wax wise.
Of course, if you've got a spare $500 burning a hole in your pocket, you could always send it to me. I need a new stove. Stoves aren't free.