Elizabeth Elliot often likes to share a story that is biblical legend. Its not found anywhere in the scriptures, but the essence of its meaning is throughout the Gospels. The legend is this:
Jesus was walking one day with His disciples and He asked each of them to pick up a stone and carry it for Him. They all picked up stones, some bigger, some smaller. Peter picked up the smallest stone possible and placed it in his pocket. They traveled for several hours, arriving at the next town tired and hungry. Jesus immediately turned the stones into bread and said, "Eat up."
Of course, Peter grew very frustrated knowing that his small stone was only now a munchkin. Jesus again asked His disciples to pick up another stone and carry it for Him. Peter, being a quick learner, picked up a large boulder and placed it on his shoulder and he, Jesus and the disciples traveled to the next town. This time, arriving at a river bank and more tired and more hungry than before, Jesus calmly asked them to throw their stones into the river, which they at once did in obedience to His command. They looked at Him, waiting expectantly for the stones to be turned into bread. Only this time, Jesus did nothing. When Peter and the disciples began to grumble, Jesus said with great compassion, "For whom did you carry the stone for?"
Here's the meaning: The first time around, the disciples carried the stones for Jesus; The second time, they actually carried the stones for themselves. The point of the story is there are many times we seek to serve God, but there's actually a hidden motive to serve ourselves.
Why do we give money to the church? Why do we help the little old lady across the street? Why do we serve God - and even people in general? Is it to bless God, or do we do it to get God and people to bless us?
There is nothing wrong with seeking God's blessings - unless it's the only reason why we're serving Him. In that case He becomes nothing more than an ATM God. Tim Keller often says, "Religious people obey God to get things; Gospel people obey God to get God."
This brings a special meaning to what Jesus said: "But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
The Bible communicates to us that if we truly seek God in thought, word and deed with pure heartfelt motives, surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.