Does obedience to the Torah, and breaking one of the Teachings, make one guilty of breaking all of them as some suggest James is teaching?
The answer is — No. However, you still have transgressed the Law/Torah.
We should not put a 21st century spin on an ancient manuscript, 2000 years ago is a long distance from today; and the people were different culturally and religiously.
2 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly (synagogen, The English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament, it should be synagogue and not assembly) a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. KJV
The book of James (Hebrew name is Ya’akov), the half-brother of Yeshua, is addressed to the persecuted Hebrews in diaspora. Chapter 1:1-2
James teaches believers to test their faith and “prove yourselves doers of the word” (1:22). James encourages believers to put their faith into action, and to be servants of Jesus Christ. Part of that faith into action is to love all who are in the body without discriminating between those who are wealthy and those who are poor.
From chapter 1, James is building a foundation for the relationship between faith and works in chapter 2. He teaches that a person of faith without works demonstrates useless faith. A believer’s good works are evidence of their faith in Yeshua. Yeshua did say: If you love Me, keep My commandments. John 14:15
Before proceeding, let us see what the different authors of the Bible had to say about the Torah.
The Torah is the Way God commanded us to walk (Deu. 13:5), the Truth (Psa. 119:142), and is the fountain of life to those who keep it (Pro. 13:14, Lev. 18:5), just as Yeshua is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) for all who trust in and follow Him. Indeed, the Torah is the very Spirit of Life in the Messiah Yeshua (Rom. 8:2).
Yeshua did not come to abolish the Torah/Law, but to fulfill it (Mat. 5:17)—that is, to make it full of meaning both by His teachings and by His Life, Sacrifice, and Resurrection. Therefore, we do not annul (cease to keep) the Torah through our faith; on the contrary, we uphold it (Rom. 3:31), for Messiah is the goal to which the Torah points (Rom.10:4) and it is not the hearers of the Torah who are justified, but the doers of the Torah (Rom. 2:13).
The Torah is not sin—that is, keeping it is not sinful (Rom. 7:7)—but rather is perfect (Psa. 19:7), more precious than gold and silver (Psa. 119:72), Spiritual—that is, of the Spirit (Rom. 7:14)—holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12), and a Torah of liberty (Jas. 1:25, 2:12), provided that one uses/interprets it as it is intended (1 Ti. 1:8).
The Torah brings repentance to the soul (Psa. 19:7), for it informs us of our sin; that is, what is sinful (Rom. 3:20, 5:13; 7:7)—indeed, the very definition of sin is Torah-lessness (1 Jn. 3:4). Therefore, the Torah keeps the righteous from stumbling (Psa. 37:31), for it is a light unto our path (Pro. 6:23), and those who forsake the Torah also praise the wicked (Pro. 28:4).
The Torah also blesses those who keep its commandments (Deu. 28:1ff, 30:9f). Now that the curses of the Torah have been taken away, all that remains is for us to receive its blessings by practicing righteousness and justice.
The blessed, righteous, and wise meditate on the Torah day and night (Jos. 1:8; Psa. 1:2, 119:97), take delight in the Torah (Psa. 1:2, 40:8, 119:70, 77, & 174; Rom. 7:22), and keep it with their whole hearts (Psa. 119:34). Those who delight in the Torah will not perish in their affliction (Psa. 119:92), for the Torah brings peace and joy to those who love it (Psa. 119:165, Pro. 29:18).
In the End Times, many will go to Jerusalem to learn the Torah, for the Torah will go forth from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3, Mic. 4:2). ADONAI will magnify the Torah and make it honorable (Isa. 42:21). In connection with the coming of Elijah, G-d commands us to remember the Torah of Moses (Mal. 4:4).
Faith and works
The Law/Torah is good. James is a Messianic Jew who observes Torah (there was no New Testament, only Torah and the Prophets. The NT was not canonized until the 4th century) and he makes reference to the royal law: If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well. James 2:8 and Leviticus 19:18
James is exhorting the Jews to practice loving everyone equally. The Law requires one to love their neighbor who is also made in the likeness and image of God, whether they are poor or wealthy. In court, the judges were not to show partiality: “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15
Also, kindness was to be exhibited to the foreigners born among them, as well: You must treat the foreigner living among you as native-born and love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34
He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and He loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. So you also must love the foreigner, since you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
The Law serves as instruction on how to practice love. Thus, if you show favoritism, then no matter how much faith you claim to have, your actions constitute sin. Your actions constitute sin, since you are convicted under the Torah as trangressors. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary.
The point is, when you break one law, you BREAK the law. You don’t break all the Law. You do not commit adultery because you lied. If you commit adultery and lied, then you lied about committing adultery.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
So, if you have murdered, have you committed adultery? No. So how have you broken the Law of adultery? You haven’t.
But, if you have murdered, you have violated the Law. You have become a transgressor of the Law, the whole law, because you did not love the brother that is also made in the likeness and image of God.
The Jews making distinctions between the rich and poor did not commit adultery or murder; but they transgressed the Law just the same. They have not broken all the Laws, they broke that one Law that serves as a blanket over all the Torah: love your neighbor.
The One New Man Bible translates it this way:
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures, “You will love your neighbor as yourself,” (Lev. 19:18) you do well: but if you show partiality, you are working sin, being exposed as a transgressor under the Torah (Teaching). 10 For whoever would keep the whole Torah (Teaching) but would stumble on one thing, has become guilty of all. 11 For the One Who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder:” but if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of Torah (Teaching). James 2
The person who is partial is sinning against the Torah, it is the Torah that teaches its adherents to not discriminate. All the Law is based on two principles: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. When one does not love the neighbor, he is breaking all the Law. He has not committed adultery, nor has he broken the Sabbath, he has not coveted, or fornicated, or committed a homosexual act; but he has broken all the Law that consists of loving your neighbor as yourself.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
James is saying just that: 11 For the One Who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not commit murder:” but if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of Torah (Teaching).
James is using hyperbole, he reaches for two extreme Laws, one of adultery and the other murder to say that discrimination is just as much sin as these two Laws if they are committed. One may not have murdered, but may have committed adultery. So what? Adultery may seem the lesser of two evils, but the fact is, it is still sin. You still have transgressed all the Law that teaches to love your neighbor as yourself.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. I John: 4:20-21
14 For ALL the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Galatians 5
In summary: The spirit of the Torah/Law is to love God and love your neighbor, and there are no exclusions in His kingdom of economics. He is no respecter of persons and neither should His believers discriminate against others in the body. The ancient Jews viewed the word as a whole unit and that breaking one Law incurred guilt.
Yeshua said it this way: 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. KJV
Yeshua saw ALL the Torah as a WHOLE unit, that it would not be abolished until heaven and earth passed away. He did not destroy or abolish any Teaching. What evil men would call the least commandment, He elevated it, gave it legal standing with all the other Teachings. Whoever would teach men to break the least will be called least in heaven. Sounds harsh but it is the reality of what He is stating.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
He has showed you, O man, what is good (what is functional). And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
If one does not have understanding of the ancient culture and beliefs, one will not be able to teach its relevance for today. If the Law has been abolished as some teach, then loving your neighbor has also been abolished.
Someone shared his opinion on a social network, and I saved a portion of it.
They (Torah/Teachings) are not grievous.
If you ask any lawyer what it means to come under the law, he will tell you, if you break the law you come under the law. Not if you keep the law. If you keep the law then you are free. God’s instructions according to His Word “the Torah is the perfect law of liberty.” You keep it and “The Truth will set you free”.
I have misplaced my sources for this article.