Hashem sends two angels, one to save Lot and the other to destroy Sedom. The people of Sedom became so twisted and corrupt that Hashem had to destroy the entire city. Sedom knew the concept idea of kindness and chessed; they just twisted it in the most perverse way.
Chazal teach that if someone were too tall for a bed, they would cut off his legs so he would fit. Give Tzeddaka, plenty of it, just don’t let the pauper use those coins to buy food in the city. Sedom took the attribute of chesed and warped it to what they saw as ethical, what they believed kindness to be.
Lot brings the angels, disguised as travelers into his home, prohibited by law in Sedom. He offers them food and lodging, punishable by death. A mob gathers to dispense justice, and when the people of Sedom want to attack the travelers, Lot offers his two daughters in their place, and is willing to give up his own life to save his guests. The angels intercede, striking their attackers with blindness. They subsequently inform Lot that he must flee from Sedom to save himself.
Rashi (19:29) says that Lot merited from being rescued from Sedom because when Avraham put Sarah in a box before going into Egypt, Lot didn’t tell the Egyptians that Sarah was hidden inside. Lot could have told the Egyptians who would then kidnap Sarah, kill Avraham, and Lot would inherit all of Avraham’s property; but instead he kept his mouth shut.
Lot’s only true merit was from not informing on Avraham and Sarah; he had nothing else.
Why in the world would Lot not get any merit for hosting guests in the incredible manner delineated above? Lot was willing to give up his life for them; yet his only merit came from not getting his uncle killed?
Rashi (19:17) also says that the angels warned Lot not to look at Sedom being destroyed because Lot himself wasn’t fit to be saved through his own merit, but only through Avraham’s merit which is controversial to what I just said above.
Rav Dessler says that if a person was taught as a child all the laws of Shabbos and he grows up in a Shomer Shabbos house, then he doesn’t get much credit for not turning on a light on Shabbos. This person doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. He knows not to (and why not to) turn on a light on Shabbos. The disgrace that he would be in his friends and family’s eyes, stop him from even thinking about it. Thus his struggle in life doesn’t include the will he/won’t he use the lights on Shabbos, but something more sophisticated; such as will he study Torah for a bit on Shabbas? Or will he be haughty when he interacts with friends?
The point is that every Jew is on their own level with their own respective trials and tribulations. But something that you are so accustomed to do, that you are taught to do your whole life, stops becoming a test for you eventually – it literally becomes natural. The Evil Inclination has no pull over something so naturally ingrained into a person.
Lot grew up in the house of the kindest man who ever lived – the epitome of chessed. After living with Avraham for so long, and following his example day by day, Lot became so accustomed to hosting guests, to the point where he had no choice in the matter. Lot had to be kind to people, he’d been living that way for so long. If so, says Rav Dessler, Lot’s conduct of self sacrifice are not as valuable as they appear. There is still merit received for mitzvos done with no choice, but it wouldn’t have been enough to save Lot.
On the other hand, Lot had extreme passion for financial success.
As we see later Lot parts from Avraham due to a financial disagreement. If Lot would’ve informed on Sarah, he would have been phenomenally wealthy. He would inherit Avraham’s property and live a happy life. This was truly a difficult test for Lot, in a field he hadn’t had training or experience. Lot conquered his inclination for money, and didn’t tell on Sarah.
Through this act alone, which appears fairly insignificant to the unenlightened eye, Lot merited to be saved from the destruction of Sedom.
The value of our actions is directly proportional to the effort expended to perform them.