“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” -Martin Luther
Michael Spencer explains what Luther meant by this at internetmonk.com » Blog Archive » A Luther Quote To Wake Up The Sleepers
The above quote is a good example. Luther recommending sin? Well…he doesn’t mean adultery or stealing. What Luther is talking about here is something C.S. Lewis talks about in Chapter 14 of The Screwtape Letters: the particular temptations that come to the person who is aware of his/her own righteousness. Even if it is an awareness of love, forgiveness or humility– all bring the possibility of self-centeredness and pride. But Lewis (and Luther) were especially aware of the spiritual dangers of trying to not sin. Yes…trying to not sin.
Since encouraging people to try and not sin is a major occupation of confused evangelicalism, Luther sounds strange. But it’s clear what he means: we can’t get caught in the trap of trying to generate our own righteousness, even in the name of obedience. Luther’s encouragement to sin just to spite the devil is his provocative way of suggesting a Christian TRUST CHRIST and have confidence in justification by faith. So much so, that instead of living in a state of perpetual self-examination, we live with the freedom to be less than perfect.
Once again "the IMonk" has written something really insightful. I recommend you read the whole thing.