It has become culturally acceptable to coin new terms to old concepts. I am going to share some new insight with you on the phrase, “spill the tea.”
I was at a Youth Conference in Murfreesboro, TN and one of the DCE’s that was there shared with us about, “spilling the tea.” I was very confused at first but as she began sharing she explained that “students feel bad about gossiping about other people, so they changed the name to ‘spilling the tea.’ It helps them to not feel so bad when they talk about other people.” As she continued, she told us that as her students were explaining to her, they quickly realized that it was still wrong to “spill the tea” because it’s “basically the same exact thing as gossiping.”
As I processed this new information, I walked in to our Sunday School class the next morning with our High Schoolers. As I began to teach, I started asking questions and one of the students on my Student Leadership Team jokingly brought up, “spilling the tea.” Out of excitement and amazement I shouted, “I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!” They all started laughing and we proceeded to discuss the phrase.
That’s not it, there’s more. There is “hot tea”, and “cold tea.” “Hot tea” means that the gossip is really JUICY. “Cold tea” is something that has been sitting for a while and is old news, or not that interesting (anymore, at least).
How do we as ministers of the gospel, as youth leaders and volunteers, reconcile with this kind of attitude and behavior that our students experience on a day-to-day basis?
I was reading through the book of James a couple weeks ago and came across chapter 3. As I read through I realized how appropriate this text was for our students to reflect on. Check it out:
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell…With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” -James 3:5b-6,9 ESV
We carry a flamethrower in our mouths everywhere we go.
Even more dangerous than our actions are our words. Words carry weight. We know words are powerful because we know that from the very creation of the entire universe, words came from the mouth of God and everything came to being. Words have power to both create and destroy.
Our culture today exists of arsonists. We may not realize it but we love to watch the world burn with our lips as the spark. And we all know the phrase, “words spread like wildfire,” but think about this: not only do our words carry to different people, but they leave a burn mark on our hearts and minds. Even years later, I can still remember some of the nasty things that people have said to me from Elementary School.
As we talk with our students about “spilling the tea,” I encourage you to reflect on these things:
1. Why do words have so much power? Why did God give us the gift of speaking?
2. What are the dangers in “spilling the tea?” What could be some consequences of gossip?
3. How do you handle when other’s gossip around you?
I believe God has called us by His Holy Spirit to speak words of life to students. As we are called to make disciples, we have to be reminded that, “faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). Our students are made in the likeness of God, as are the people that they interact with on a regular basis in school, sports, band, and Youth Group. As we remind students to be disciples of Christ, let us not forget to remind them that they are examples of Christ instead of examples of the world.
As ministers of the gospel, we must constantly keep aware of what is said by other’s around us, and be mindful of the things we do not hear. I pray that we would be people of peace in a world of chaos and hot tea.
I’m curious, what are other phrases or words do you hear from students in your ministry? Comment below!
A.J. Vega is the Director of Christian Education at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Memphis, TN. He is involved in leading Middle School and High School Ministry, College and Young Adult Ministry and takes on many other roles at Immanuel. A.J. is married to his beloved bride, Krissy Vega, who is also involved in Youth Ministry at Immanuel. Both were Interest Speakers in the 2016 National Youth Gathering in New Orleans, LA titled, #RelationshipGoals. You can follow A.J. on Twitter and Instagram @thebossajv.