The cardinal is also referred to as the redbird because of the dominant red color of the male cardinals. It is one of the most popular birds in North America and it is even the official bird in seven states. In the early 1600s, the cardinals of the catholic church were commonly known to wear red garments and it is believed to have inspired the naming of the redbird. This connection of the bird to the church clergy is what makes many associate the bird with divinity. Even though it is not explicitly mentioned in the scriptures, there is a lot of scriptural significance that we can draw from the unique characteristics of the cardinal.
What does it mean when God sends a cardinal?
The cardinal is one of the few non-migratory birds. As such, this bird symbolizes staying put in God even when the seasons are tough. But there are other lessons to glean from the bird including gender impartiality (because both male and female cardinals sing) and redeeming time (because cardinals are early nesters).
Let us take a closer look at each of these lessons that we can draw from cardinals.
Cardinals teach us the importance of abiding in Christ
Unlike most birds, northern cardinals are not migratory in nature. As such, residents of the East, Midwest, and Southwestern states get to enjoy this incredible bird all year. The lack of migration also allows them to start breeding early and this has contributed to their large populations. This characteristic can remind Christians of the importance of abiding in Christ. God has called us into a life of dwelling in him. There are many interesting things that happen around us that could easily take our attention from the things of God but we should desire to emulate the cardinal which does not migrate with the other birds.
Abiding in Christ means not allowing the cares of the world to push you away from your faith. Some, as Paul observed, have lost their moral compass and shipwrecked their faith in the process (1 Timothy 1:19). However, those who hold to their faith continue to grow in faith and in God. These are the ones that Jesus referred to in his parable of the sower when he said some seed fell in the ground thereby yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold (Mathew 13:8). We know this because Jesus expressly stated that those who abide in him will bear much fruit (John 15:5).
In Hebrews, scripture exhorts us to continue abiding in Christ. It says,
We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:39
Staying put in God is an expression of faith. Faith refuses to quit even when the going gets touched. Just like the cardinal that refuses to change its location when the seasons change, the Christian must remain committed to God through the ups and downs of life.
No gender bias
In most bird species, males do the singing. However, the cardinal is one of the few exceptions because female cardinals sing just as well as their male counterparts. Cardinals typically sing all year round and only take a break from singing in the deep of winter. The fact that both males and females sing can be a symbol of the way both males and females are equal in God’s eyes. Granted, Christianity has been greatly influenced by the Jewish customs and the male seemed to have more placement not only in society but religion as well. Some may even argue that the female was disenfranchised and discriminated against. However, cardinals can remind us that God treats us the same and that we are all his children, whether male or female.
Granted, the Bible has some defined gender roles. For instance, God puts man in charge of the family, and the woman is required to submit to the husband. Some feminists look at this as discriminatory but it is not. It is just a divine instruction meant to promote order in the family institution. It also has to do with the way God created man and woman differently. Women are typically more in touch with their emotions, unlike men who are typically more logical in approach. This may explain why the man was put in charge of the family. That said, God does not discriminate based on Gender. In fact, He states this explicitly in the following scripture;
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
So the next time you see a cardinal, take it as a reminder that God is no respecter of persons – he will treat both males and females the same way.
Redeem the time
It is a known fact that most birds start nesting between March and August. However, the cardinal is an exception to the rule because they start nesting as early as February. Because of their early nesting, cardinals can comfortably raise two broods every year and this may be one of the reasons why their populations have increased drastically over the years while other species are either lagging or in decline.
The characteristic of cardinals nesting early in the year can be a stark reminder of the importance of redeeming time. When writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul reminds them of the need for redeeming time (maximizing every opportunity) because we live in evil days.
So then, be very careful how you live. Don’t live like foolish people but like wise people. Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days. Ephesians 6:15-16
They say opportunity knocks once and this underscores the need to take advantage of every opportunity. This advice cuts across all sectors of life. For instance, if you get a chance to share the gospel with someone, you should maximize it because you may never get the chance again. If in business, you may only be fortunate to make a business deal once and if you miss out on it, you may not get a chance again. The cardinal should always remind you to make god use of your time just as it does.
To sum it up, the cardinal is not mentioned in the Bible but still, it has lots of spiritual significance. For starters, it will teach you the importance of abiding in Christ. Cardinals also symbolize maximizing opportunity as well as serving as reminders of God’s gender impartiality.