Interestingly, the New Testament spends little time on the matter of keeping secret our shortcomings. God, who sees everything, will reward and punish us for all our deeds, known or unknown to our fellow human beings.
There are instructions, however, about our desire to raise ourselves up in the eyes of others. We are commanded to keep secret our praiseworthy acts. From the Sermon on the Mount:
On righteous behavior: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.Praying in public is no longer regarded as particularly commendable, so the Sermon on the Mount could probably stand a little updating. On the 21st century Peninsula there are many residents who drive a hybrid car and display Obama-Biden, pro-choice, anti-global-warming, and pro-gay-marriage bumper stickers.
On giving alms to the poor: So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
On prayer: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
On fasting: When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
It's uncertain whether these virtuous individuals will earn a heavenly reward, but it's not God's approval that they're seeking. © 2014 Stephen Yuen